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1. Is Philosophy Possible? 

2. The Philosophic Attitude. 

3. Philosophic Technique. 

4. Philosophical Criticism. y^*^ 



1. The Meaning Situation. 

2. The Thinking Process. 

3. Further Remarks about Meaning. 

4. The Mental Aspect of Meaning: What is an Idea_?_ 

5. The Objectification of Meaning. 



1 . The Two Uses of Language. 

2. Terms. 

3. Definition. 

4. Ambiguity. 

5. Propositions. 



1. Relations. 

2. Relations between Propositions. 

3. A Few Devices. 

4. Toward Complications. 


5. The Dilemma. 

6. The Counter-dilemma. 

7. Rebuttal and Reductio ad Absurdum. 



2. Generalization. 

3. Causal Analysis. 

4. Physical Determinism. 

5. Functional Correlation. 

6. Statistical Generalization. 

7. The Later Stages of Scientific Reasoning. 



1. Realms of Discourse. 

2. Dialectical Method. 

3. Metaphysics.^^.xX^^^ 

4. Fallacies of Metaphysical Reasoning. 



1. The Common-Sense World. 

2. Classical Physics. 

3. Contemporary Physics. 

4. The Problem of Reality. 



1. Biology and the Physical Sciences. 

2. Is Biology a Science? 

3. Evolution, 




1. Historical Preliminary. 

2. The Cartesian Dualism. 

3. Man a Machine. 

4. Subjectivism. 

5. Toward Sanity, 



1 . The Moral Realm of Discourse. 

2. Moral Values and Cognate Realms of Fact. 

3. Postulates of the Moral Realm. 

4. Problems of the Moral Realm. 



1. What a Philosophy of Religion Can Do. 

2. Religious and Scientific World-Views. 

3. Current Attempts at Compromise. 

4. The Nature of Beliefw^*- 

5. The Attributes of Divinity. 



1 . Reductions of the Esthetic Experience. 

2. The Autonomy of the Esthetic Experience. 

3. The Importance of the Esthetic Experience. 


INDEX 459 




I throw my dog a piece of meat: he tenses certain 
muscles, relaxes others, flexes his hind legs, throws his 
head back, suddenly opens and shuts his jaws just in 
time to catch the meat cleanly, takes a quick bite or two, 
swallows, and looks very much satisfied. I sit in an Italian 
church, and watch a young girl praying before the high 
altar, her head bowed, her hands clasped. I listen to a 
friend of mine telling with regret how his young son, in 
spite of punishments, every day leaves school at recess to 
take a walk in the neighboring country. I stand in an 
Athens twilight beside a peasant from a mountain district 
who has for the past half hour silently been watching the 
Parthenon blacken in the sunset. 

My eyes follow casually drops of water melting from an 
icicle attached to the eaves of a high roof. The icicle 
breaks off, and with it smaller pieces of ice and snow. 
They fall with increasing speed, at first together; then the 
heavier pieces of ice outdistance the rest, and are shattered 
against the ground some moments before the smaller 
particles of snow finish their drop. In a half directed 
chain of reflections I begin to consider this lag in the time 
at which the snow reached the ground. The ice is heavier, 
but I know that this is no part of the explanation; and 
I remember my surprise when I first learned that there 
was nothing in the nature of heavy bodies that made 
them drop faster than light bodies. The lag, I know, is 
caused by the differences in the resistance offered by the 
air to the motions of the particles of ice and snow, differ- 



ences related to the proportion between surface and mass 
in the various particles. For, apart from this difference 
of air resistance and certain other variable factors, I 
know that all bodies on the earth are drawn with the same 
force in a straight line toward the center of the earth. 
And I reflect further that the law expressing the uniform 
tendency of terrestial bodies is only a local application 
of the universal law in accordance with which the earth 
and the other planets continue their set courses around the 
sun; and that, finally, the force referred to in this uni- 
versal law of gravitation is interpreted by the equations 
of the relativists as a characteristic of space itself. 

The analysis of the fall of the ice and snow might be 
carried still further, either by elaborating certain details, 
or by relating it to even more general beliefs about the 
orderliness of the universe. But each of the other ex- 
periences also offers material for analysis, though if 
followed naturally, the procedure in each case will be 
different. The action of the dog seems to involve a most 
abstruse causal analysis and interpretation: a recognition 
of what was in my hand as meat, of my movements as 
meaning that I was about to throw the meat, an accurate 
judgment of the complex trajectory of the meat through 
the air, a confidence that what his nose and eyes informed 
him was meat was meat, and would nourish, not poison 
him; contemplation of the girl before the altar might lead 
to reflections on the nature of God, on the mysteries of 
religion, on the ecstasies of the mystics; the boy's choice 
of a walk rather than school suggests perhaps the most 
searching questions of what, in the end, are the goods 
that we should seek; watching the Greek peasant, we may 
wonder about the ultimate nature of beauty, to which so 
many men have devoted the best of their lives and their 
thoughts. Yet when we reach these reflective structures 
surrounding the nature of space, cause, God, good, beauty, 


we seem, somehow, to have divorced ourselves from the 
warm, familiar experiences that formed the starting points 
for reflection. 

And certainly there has been from many points of view 
a falsification. For one thing, neither the dog nor the 
girl nor the boy nor the peasant went very far into the 
kind of analysis whose possibility has been suggested. 
We can only dimly imagine what the dog's world is like; 
but we all know, or think we know, what the girl's and 
the boy's and the peasant's world is like: it is the world 
of our ordinary experience (realita vividdd 'lived- 
through experience,' the Spanish can say more thor- 
oughly), made up of people and objects, space and time, 
hard and soft, colors and sounds and smells, sorrows and 
loves, desires, hopes, death all more or less ordered, 
more or less intelligible, more or less enduring. At most 
times we are irresistibly led to consider this familiar 
world as somehow simply given, for us to look out on and 
know. But anyone who has seen a small baby, unable 
to recognize any of the objects around him, unable even 
to distinguish his own body from the cradle he lies in, 
grasping with the same gesture at a rattle by his side or a 
lamp across the room, will not need to be convinced that 
the baby's world is not the same. And the abstract world 
of relativity equations and the incommunicable world of 
a mystic's ecstasies are again not the same. 

In thinking we can never start at the beginning. We 
think at first without realizing it, without distinguishing 
it from other activities; and when we first think critically 
and self-consciously we have already countless confused 
habits, prejudices, beliefs, doubts that condition the 
manner and content of our thought. These have been 
formed in us by the necessities of living, just as the dog, 
who will never know what cause is, yet acts in catching 
and eating the meat as if confident in the validity of many 


causal judgments. In philosophy, which is an attempt to 
think critically and self-consciously in a more directed 
manner than usual, this continuity of experience must 
always be remembered. At heights of abstraction it is, 
as we shall see, often forgotten; but we should know 
nothing of atoms if we did not first know stones and 
chairs; nor would we ever debate the nature of the good 
if we had not first discovered a conflict of desires. 

Experience is irreducible, ineluctable, a pure and simple 
fact. It is not conceivable that any system could finally 
comprehend it. To modify the quality of experience, by 
developing a technique for analysing the relations among 
its various aspects, and by finding an acceptable attitude 
before its diverse complexities is the task of philosophy. 


In beginning the study of philosophy it is important not 
to expect the wrong kind of results, not to expect the 
same kind of answers to questions that are obtained in 
business or in studying the sciences. Such expectations 
must inevitably be disappointed, and philosophy then 
declared worthless because it has not accomplished what 
it ruever professed to be able to accomplish. Of course we 
may feel, in the end, that the results philosophy does 
achieve are not worth much; but this is a different type of 
judgment. To take an example from another field, it 
would be foolish to say that Picasso has failed because his 
paintings do not look like the ordinary objects around us. 
It was never part of his intention that they should. But 
we may reject Picasso on the ground that all paintings 
should be closely representative of ordinary objects 
though this can hardly be done intelligently unless we 
understand the opposed point of view. From such mis- 
understandings as these have arisen certain charges against 
philosophy which will here be examined. 


(i) In the first place, it is declared that the futility of 
philosophy is shown by its history. It has not progressed 
as the sciences have. The sciences can point to definite 
results: not only have they established an impressive and 
rapidly growing body of objectively verifiable truths, but 
by applying these truths they have made possible the 
amazing inventions of the last few centuries that have 
given us an unprecedented control over nature, and have 
quite literally changed the face of the earth and the life 
of mankind. Philosophy, on the other hand, has never 
got beyond the disputes that Socrates and his companions 
carried on in the Athenian market-place. Itjisks questions 
to which, apparently, no verifiable answer can be given; 
and consequently has gone on for more than twenty-five 
hundred years asking them without success. What is 
man's destiny? What is truth? How are we to dis- 
tinguish between right and wrong conduct? Is there a 
God and if so what is his nature? Are the events that go 
on in the universe expressions of a hidden cosmic purpose, 
or merely the inexorable effects of physical forces? Such 
questions, their verbal form changed from age to age with 
the changing thought-fashions, seem no closer to satisfac- 
tory answers than at the beginning. 

To be sure, there is no scarcity of people who think that 
they have found the answers; every religious creed and 
every 'school* of philosophy is made up of them. Yet 
when their answers are compared with one another they 
seem to cancel each other out. Doubtless many philoso- 
phers speak dogmatically enough in defense of their own 
positions: "Truth is correspondence with verifiable fact"; 
"Truth is determined by intellectual consistency"; 
"Truth is whatever best satisfies the needs and desires of 
men"; "Truth is fundamentally intuitive, and both rea- 
soning and observation of fact are secondary to those 
immediate intuitions (such as my own existence, the 


existence of a world in space and time, the existence of 
other persons) which alone make experience possible." 
The oppositions among the answers to the other questions 
that have been listed are more familiar and even more 
direct; the contrary dogmatisms only prolong the con- 
flict, and the questions continue to be asked. 

Consequently, practical persons, who want definite 
answers to their questions, are likely to agree with the 
judgment of Callicles, in Plato's dialogue, Gorgias: 

When I see one of your young men studying philosophy, that 
I consider to be quite in character, and becoming a man of 
liberal education, and him who neglects philosophy I regard as 
an inferior man, who will never aspire to anything great or noble. 
But if I see him continuing to study philosophy in later life, 
and not leaving off, I think that he ought to be beaten, Socrates; 
for, as I was saying, such an one, even though he have good 
natural parts, becomes effeminate. He flies from the busy 
center and the market-place, in which, as the poet says, men 
become distinguished: he creeps into a corner for the rest of his 
life, and talks in a whisper with three or four admiring youths, 
but never speaks out like a freeman in a satisfactory manner. 

Or, phrased in contemporary language, they may go even 

Many apparent questions which begin with the words * What* 
and 'Why' are not questions at all, but requests for emotive 
satisfaction. 1 

If the problems of philosophy cannot be solved, or even 
perhaps are not problems at all but only verbal delusions, 
does not philosophy become no more than a pastime, like 
crossword puzzles or backgammon? And in that case, 
ought we not become positivists and confine at least our 
more serious attention to questions whose answers can be 
sought by the methods of science? 

1 I. A. Richards, Principles of literary Criticism. 


(2) But not only is it stated that philosophy is dealing 
with a group of problems to which it can give no satisfac- 
tory answers, and consequently making no discernible 
progress. The critics of philosophy go farther and declare 
that actually it is losing ground, and that the various 
sciences, advancing on its long possessed domain, are 
taking over one by one the problems that were once 
philosophy's, and with the help of experimental methods 
are giving them far more exact and generally acceptable 
answers than philosophy could ever have done. There 
was, for instance, the question first asked by the ancient 
Milesian philosophers, " What is the underlying substance 
from which all other things are derived?" Thales, the 
first of this group, said that it was water; Anaximander, 
his successor, an unlimited reservoir in which all qualities 
dark, light, moist, dry, hot, cold, etc. were con- 
tained; Anaximenes, the last prominent member of the 
group, air. Each of these men could find ample indica- 
tions in experience pointing toward the answer he gave, 
but their investigations were not experimentally controlled 
and their solutions in consequence seem to the modern 
mind little more than picturesque guesswork. Nowadays, 
in contrast, the question from what are things derived is 
considered no longer a subject for philosophical specula- 
tion but for chemical and physical analysis. It is to be 
answered by the patient laboratory research that resulted 
in the great atomic theories elaborated so spectacularly 
during the nineteenth century, and, more recently, in the 
electrical and wave theories of the structure of matter. 
Again, psychology has invaded traditional conceptions of 
philosophy; and older notions of the soul as an inner 
spiritual power controlling the activity of the body are 
being challenged by mechanistic explanations of mental 
activity in terms of conditioned reflexes, engrams, and 
neural patterns explanations that seem to admit of 


objective verification in a manner not applicable to the 
philosophical explanations. Examples could be multiplied 
indefinitely the contrast between the study of the 
motion of bodies through philosophical deductions from 
the nature of motion, and through the science of mechanics 
as begun by Galileo at the end of the sixteenth century; 
the early Greek theory of four elements qualitatively 
differentiated contrasted with the quantitative method in 
chemical analysis made precise by Lavoisier in the 
eighteenth century ... but these should suffice to 
give substance to the charge we are reviewing. From 
considerations such as these, many persons are led to 
believe that philosophy is only a hangover from primitive 
superstitions, and that the sooner it is shaken off the sooner 
will science be free to get results unconfused by useless 

Both of these objections are based on popular and wide- 
spread misconceptions about what is to be expected from 
philosophy. The second for the moment we shall 
postpone any attempt to answer the first observes 
that each of the special sciences, astronomy, physics, 
biology, economics, geology, and the many others, has a 
definitely marked out and limited field on which its re- 
searches and other activities are concentrated. In each 
case the field can be defined, perhaps roughly and in- 
adequately, but at any rate clearly enough so that a 
problem can readily be identified as astronomical, biologi- 
cal, economic, etc. It is then taken for granted that 
philosophy must claim for itself a clearly limited field 
analogous to the fields claimed by the special sciences; 
but, as we have seen, much of what philosophy claimed 
for itself in the past has been taken over or is now being 
taken over by various sciences; and from this it is further 
concluded that eventually everything will be made part 


of the subject-matter of science, and dealt with by scien- 
tific experimentation. 

Two additional preliminary steps are involved in the 
reasoning which we are here interpreting: (i) wherever 
science has in the past taken over a body of problems 
that had formerly been matters for philosophical specula- 
tion (as when chemistry took over many of the problems 
of alchemy, or psychology some of the problems of re- 
ligious mysticism, or astronomy and field physics the 
problems of cosmology, or as in the cases cited above) it 
has produced verifiable results and practical consequences 
in a way that philosophy has never done; and (ii) the 
value of any study or activity is to be measured by its 
ability to produce verifiable results, and practical con- 
sequences in the form of inventions, machines, cures, or 
useful statistics. From all these considerations it is con- 
cluded that the eventual complete surrender of philosophy 
to the sciences is not only inevitable, but very much to be 
wished for. 

It is evident that back of this reasoning lies an attitude 
remarkably prevalent today, though there is some excuse 
for believing that it is now on the decline, after reaching 
a climax toward the end of the last century. It is an 
attitude growing out of what may be called the Religion 
of Science, a religion that for many people in the nine- 
teenth century took the place of older, traditional faiths 
which had supposedly been undermined by scientific criti- 
cism. To deny the amazing, indeed incalculable effects 
of scientific progress would be not only narrow-minded 
but quite meaningless, since they are so intimately a 
part of our lives that every moment we live is directly 
conditioned by them. The steam engine, the internal com- 
bustion engine, steel, petroleum, the uses to which elec- 
tricity has been put, all sprung from scientific research, 
have made a world so changed that it may hardly be 


called the same as the world of a thousand or even five 
hundred years ago. But, recognizing this in all its im- 
portance, it is quite another thing to claim for scientific 
method the right to be the sole interpreter of experience. 
It is important, essential to realize that the theoretic 
and intellectual pretentions of science can only be judged 
after a long and careful analysis. We forget this in ad- 
hering to the Religion of Science. For science occupies 
in the popular mind today a place closely similar to that 
held by magic in primitive cultures or by the Church in 
the Middle Ages. It has its medicine men and priests 
who make mysterious and unintelligible statements broad- 
cast through the newspapers, far more ambiguous than 
any quoted from the Delphic Oracle. It produces its 
miracles, as in the past, by curing diseases, and by 
breaking the common sense laws of nature through such 
astounding spectacles as talkies, radios, and airplanes. 
And, as in all religions, at its heart lie self-contradictory 
first principles, not comprehensible by reason: the ether, 
Carnot's law, space-time, matter, unimaginably large (and 
small) numbers. 

In estimating science's claim to be the exclusive master 
of our serious attention, it is therefore important to dis- 
tinguish the superstitious reverence accompanying the 
Religion of Science from the calm judgment of science's 
actual and possible achievements. Science's greatest ac- 
complishments have been of two general kinds: (i) the 
relating together of more and more phenomena through 
mathematically formulated laws; (5i) the physical control 
of material objects through inventions made possible by 
the practical application of (i) plus imagination and luck. 
Just how important, from all points of view, (i) is we 
are not yet in a position to decide. How immensely 
important (ii) is, is obvious. It would, moreover, be 
foolish to pretend that philosophy has not often speculated 


about matters that can be satisfactorily handled only by 
the application of the scientific method (though this is 
not always unfortunate: often the speculation has given 
a needed impetus to science) ; and it would be equally 
foolish to deny the effectiveness of the scientific method 
when applied to such matters. Chemists, even if they 
have not reached the goal of the philosophical alchemists 
of the Middle Ages and converted lead into gold, have 
reached even more remarkable goals of their own: have, 
for example, converted petroleum into gasoline, coal into 
perfume, water into two gases. Medicine, though it has 
not conquered death, has lessened the amount of physical 
pain in the world. Physics, though it cannot abolish the 
spatio-temporal conditions of experience, yet through the 
telegraph, telephone, radio, and means of rapid transpor- 
tation, modifies them more than older prophets even 
dreamed of. About these things there is no doubt. But 
does it therefore follow that everything is of this character, 
that is, amenable to the scientific method? 

Certainly not. 

In the first place the reasoning of science contains as 
we shall see many non-scientific elements. These have 
often been deplored by scientists; but actually they are 
essential to science; and in any case science could hardly 
contain itself. Recognizing this, some contemporary 
philosophers, compromising with the popular misconcep- 
tions, tend to look upon philosophy as a generalized 
Science of the sciences. This, though it may be true 
enough so far as it goes, is much too restricted a view. 

But more important, granted that science is the most 
successful technique for discovering objectively verifiable 
answers, we are perfectly at liberty to question in many 
fields and for many purposes the value and even the possi- 
bility of such answers. Indeed, as we shall see later in 
detail, questions are 'objectively verifiable* apart from 


such practical consequences as are inescapable only 
when we are content to accept the grounds, that is to 
say the implicit presuppositions, of verification. These 
grounds as elaborated by science may very well not be 
applicable to, for instance, the moral, religious, or es- 
thetic interests suggested by the incidents mentioned at 
the beginning of this chapter. Experience is infinitely 
diverse; and philosophy wishes not to limit its diversities, 
as would be demanded by the adoption of any single 
point of view, but to understand them. What, more pre- 
cisely, is here involved will emerge from an expansion 
of the related aspects of philosophy already referred to: 
the synoptic philosophy as an attitude; the critical or 
dialectical aspect philosophy as a technique. 


(1) The anatomy of specialization. An easily rec- 
ognized phenomenon in Western thought since the Ren- 
aissance has been the specialization of knowledge. In 
ancient Greece or in Europe during the Middle Ages men 
like Plato, Aristotle, Albertus Magnus, and Thomas 
Aquinas could fairly claim to know nearly everything 
that was worth knowing. Even so late as the end of 
the fifteenth century Leon Battista Alberti and Leonardo 
da Vinci were generally considered by their contempo- 
raries uomini universali> 'universal men/ The vast growth 
in the amount and detail of knowledge has made this no 
longer possible. Consequently, a given branch of inquiry, 
having special interests of its own to serve, gradually 
breaks away from the common body of knowledge and 
develops methods of investigation appropriate to its in- 
terests. Thus we may trace historically the rise to a 
relatively independent status of astronomy, physics, chem- 
istry, economics, biology, esthetics, (more recently) psy- 


chology, sociology, and many others. The organization 
of courses in an ordinary college bulletin illustrates the 
completeness and definiteness of this specialization at 
the present time. 

When we open a textbook in one of these specialized 
fields we notice perhaps first of all particularly if we 
are not familiar with the field a large number of words 
that are not used in ordinary conversation, but that are 
essential to an understanding of the subject of the text- 
book; and we find ordinary words employed in extraor- 
dinary ways. In fact the first few chapters may be little 
more than an attempt to define words. In, for example, 
a textbook of psychology we will find 'psychosis/ 'phe- 
nomenon/ 'conation/ 'volition/ 'affect/ 'cognition/ 
'presentation/ 'ideation/ 'hedonic tone/ 'endo-somatic/ 
'coenaesthesia/ 'instinct/ 'reflex/ 'inhibition/ 'chronax- 
ies/ 'libido/ 'neurone/ and hundreds more. Each spe- 
cialized field, that is, has a language of its own. But it 
will have a language in a more fundamental sense than 
a mere system of words: the words will stand for some- 
thing (the 'object' of its investigations); and when, 
hereafter, we speak of the language of a specialized field 
of knowledge we are referring not to the words, but to 
what the words stand for. The whole system of language 
of any definite and elaborated field will then constitute 
what may be called a realm of discourse. 

The advantages of thus arranging knowledge in parti- 
tions, of building up separate realms of discourse, are 
clear enough. Without them, in the modern world, it 
would be impossible to accomplish anything. The dis- 
advantages, however, are often overlooked: In the first 
place, they make each field less accessible to other fields, 
as we realize whenever we talk to a specialist in a field 
about which we know little. Before we can understand 
him we must learn his language. Second, and even more 


important, too much specialization turns aside our energies 
from the perhaps fundamental task of harmonizing and 
integrating the various human activities and interests. 

(2) Ideologies. Specialists in some one given realm of 
discourse capable of intellectual refinement very often 
take a further step: on the basis of the language in which 
they are adept they build up ideologies. Anjdeology may 
be defined as a group of ideas and Jbeliefs^appropiate 
enough to a Single realm of discourse, but which gets taken 
too seriously, and is applied indiscriminately outside this 
realm, or even, with the aid of sanctifying adjectives like 
'real' and 'true', to all experience. 

Perhaps the most evident examples of such ideologies 
are to be found in political history. During the sixteenth 
century there arose in England, France, and Spain, 
through the operation of innumerable causes too complex 
ever to be fully explained, the system of political control 
we call 'absolute monarchy.' Then, after the system 
was established, two different ideologies were built up, 
in one of which the absolute monarch appeared to hold 
power by 'Divine Right/ in the other, by an implied con- 
tract through which the 'people' surrendered their rights 
to the 'sovereign.' More recently, the same sort of ideo- 
logical branch has sprung from the democratic-humani- 
tarian movement partially successful at the end of the 
eighteenth century. Many people in the United States 
today are still convinced that man has 'naturally' certain 
inalienable rights and privileges; and in arguments over 
political questions these are often appealed to as final 

But another type of ideology is more directly connected 
with our present inquiries. As examples of this there 
may be cited: (i) The economic interpretation of history 
and values, in which it is stated that all historical events, 
all human beliefs, moral codes, religious and esthetic 


systems are explicable only in terms of the interplay of 
conflicting economic forces. The extreme view here sug- 
gested is perhaps less widely held than a decade ago; but 
in a modified form it is still prevalent and perhaps in- 
creasing its influence, (ii)* The behavioristic interpreta- 
tion of man, in which emotions are held to be * nothing 
but* movements of the viscera; thought and conscious- 
ness in general, nothing but complicated movements of 
the molecules of the brain. We must be careful to dis- 
tinguish the ideology based on behaviorism from the 
method of behaviorism; we may of course recognize the 
usefulness of the latter in the laboratory without accepting 
any of the former. Hi) The physical interpretation of all 
reality, in terms of electrons or quantum transitions, 
(iy) The 'logical' or 'metaphysical' interpretation of the 
universe, in which all that happens is treated as instances 
of some necessary, eternal, and logically satisfactory 
system of 'reality.' 

Such ideologies and the attitudes that go with them 
may be called dogmatic. Opposed to each and all of them 
is the philosophic attitude. 

(3) Philosophic vision. Philosophic vision involves a 
willingness to understand and appreciate the diverse 
meanings summed up in every realm of discourse. This 
cannot be simply standing intellectually outside and look- 
ing in: for one thing, there is no outside. A democratic- 
humanitarian may be unreflective and dogmatic about his 
ideals and beliefs; but a communist will not for that 
reason understand them any better. If the democrat can 
see only their virtues, the communist can see only their 
faults. A poet may very well recognize the limitations 
of a dogmatic physicist's reduction of reality to quantum- 
transitions, but his recognition will be philosophic only 
when it includes both an appreciation and an analysis of 
the physicist's point of view. These two must go together; 


for appreciation without analysis easily degenerates into 
a sentimental 'tolerance* and the watered skepticism of 
an intellectual dilettante; and analysis alone amounts 
usually either to mere academic word-chopping or to a 
covering for some unexpressed ideology of the analyst. 

Each realm of discourse, that is, must first be accepted 
from its own standpoint. When we speak of 'philosophic 
vision* we are emphasizing this acceptance, this effort, by 
avoiding all stereotyped and insular attitudes, to include 
in our view, as nearly as we can, the whole of life. But 
along with this acceptance must go a recognition of the 
limitations of each realm of discourse, made possible by 
the analytic or dialectical side of philosophy, which we 
shall now consider. 


Philosophic technique, since it is allegedly able to deal 
with any realm of discourse, cannot so readily be formu- 
lated in advance as a technique adapted to a specific field 
and a specific set of problems, as for instance a cobbling 
or tennis or geological technique. What is meant by it 
will become clearer through its actual use in handling 
various realms of discourse as in the second part of this 
book. We can, nevertheless, suggest beforehand certain 
of its important functions. 

(i) In every realm of discourse to which logical method 
is appropriate there are certain fundamental or root terms 
on which as a foundation the system of meanings com- 
prising the realm of discourse in question is built. The 
following will serve as examples. 

From mathematics, the notions of unity , infinity , and 
of such primary relations as addition and equality. From 
physics, time, length, mass. Or, from the new physics, 


space-time (n-dimensional continuum), c (the velocity of 
light), events related by intervals. From ethics, the notion 
of good (or some verbal synonym). 

At least some of these root terms must be indefinable 
within their own reaJm^qf discourse. This should not be 
difficult to realize, for if it were not the case, when we 
attempted to define any particular term one of two results 
would follow: either our definitions would dissolve into 
an infinite regress, or *we should in the end circle back to 
the term with which we started (though we might have 
changed the word used and thus be deceived into thinking 
we had defined it in terms other than itself). That is, if 
we define a in terms of ^, b in terms of c y c in terms of d y 
etc., either we shall go on for ever, or get back to a or 
come to rest at some term which we simply accept as un- 
defined so far as the type of meaning in question is con- 

Oddly enough, it is often rather arbitrary just which 
of the fundamental terms in any realm we accept as un- 
defined. For instance, if we accept time (T), length (L), 
and mass (M) as undefined, we can express space in 

terms of L 3 , velocity as ~, force as , etc. But the 
process might easily be reversed. Now, from a mathe- 

i r i -11 / L f ML 

matical point of view, velocity will be - or force 

But in building up a view of the physical world we proba- 
bly shall regard space, velocity, and force as something 
in their own right, not to be identified with the mathe- 
matical expressions for them; and we shall therefore have 
to treat them also as undefined. 

It is necessary to add that this arbitrariness in the se- 
lection of undefined fundamental terms does not extend 
to all fields alike. It is the case with physics; but it is 


difficult to see how any mathematics could be built up 
without the concept of unity *, though the reasons for this 
are perhaps extra-mathematical. 

(2) In every realm of discourse to which logical method 
is appropriate there are, furthermore, certain fundamen- 
tal propositions on which the structure of the realm of 
discourse in question rests. The following, from the 
same realms as above (i) will serve as examples. From 
mathematics: "For every finite value of #, there is a 
finite value x + i"; "In addition, the order of proce- 
dure is immaterial." From Newtonian physics: "Every 
material body will continue in a state of rest or of uniform 
motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external 
force "; "To every action there is always an equal and 
opposite reaction "; also the three great 'Conservation 
Laws' of mass, quantity of motion, and energy. From 
relativity physics: "The interval along the geodesic of 
a light impulse is zero." From empirical science generally: 
"There is a uniformity, either absolute or approximate, 
among events, such that probable predictions of future 
events can be made on the basis of events observed in the 
past." From ethics: "Some things (ideals or acts or 
motives) are better (more good) than others." Any par- 
ticular and definite ethical attitude requires further some 
form or forms of the proposition: "This particular ideal, 
act, or motive is good"; or, "This one is better and more 
choiceworthy than that one." 

Just as certain root terms must be accepted without 
definition, it is clear that some at least of the fundamental 
propositions in each realm of discourse must be accepted 
without proof, since everything else is, presumably, to 

1 Unity may, perhaps, be defined by reference to some other realm of dis- 
course (e.g. class logic), but it remains undefined if the analysis is restricted 
to mathematics alone. 


be proved from them. Unproved propositions are often 
divided into axioms, which have no intelligible alternative 
within the same realm of discourse, and postulates, which 
do have one or more intelligible alternatives. There is a 
tendency, particularly noticeable in recent years, for more 
and more propositions once regarded as axioms to become 
regarded as postulates, and we shall generally use the 
latter term to include all unproved propositions. 

Again as with root terms, it is somewhat arbitrary just 
what propositions we consider postulates. The general 
'causal postulate' given above presumably could never be 
proved, since it refers to the future. But certain physical 
laws (as will be shown, for instance, in Chapter VII) may 
apparently be deduced from the method of defining terms. 

It is the business of a philosophic technique to clarify 
these fundamental terms and propositions in each realm 
of discourse. Since Part II is largely devoted to this 
effort, we may conclude here with a few general remarks. 

(i) It is probably already clear that the discovery of 
these terms and propositions is extremely difficult, and 
that complete success is scarcely to be hoped for. In 
fact an introductory study can do little more than indicate 
the type of problem that arises. In addition to troubles 
from the arbitrariness noted above, we continually deceive 
ourselves by supposing that something has been defined 
or proved when actually a verbal shift has occurred, or an 
irrelevant meaning introduced from another realm of dis- 
course. Examples of the first are to be found, for instance, 
in many ethical theories substituting the words 'virtue' 
or 'the desirable* or some more or less synonymous word 
for ' good ' ; of the second, in the supposition that ' infinity ' 
is something extremely large, or 'mass' a quality of 
heaviness or size such as known when we lift a material 


(ii) The approach of philosophic technique is not genetic 
or historical, but logical. That is to say, these terms and 
propositions are not those that appear first in any field of 
knowledge, nor the ones that we learn first when studying 
some field. In fact, none of them is ever articulated until 
the field of knowledge in question is well advanced, and 
has built up a fairly coherent intellectual structure. 

(iii) We should not be misled by a usual attitude toward 
'what cannot be proved/ which might conclude that 
postulates are an inferior and shaky sort of knowledge. 
The truth is that modified forms of certain postulates are 
among our surest knowledge, and we are forced by the 
necessities of living to act as if they were valid long before 
we could put them into logical form. In believing that 
we can make a conscious choice between two possible 
actions there is implied some form of an ethical postulate; 
in eating a piece of meat, confident that it will nourish 
us, some form of the causal postulate. 

(iv) It is rather generally agreed among philosophers 
and scientists that the number of undefined terms and 
postulates in any realm of discourse should be reduced 
to the fewest possible. The reasons for this are not always 
easy to understand, but they seem to be based chiefly 
either on the esthetic satisfaction that can be derived 
from a set of meanings so organized, or on grounds of in- 
tellectual expediency. 

(v) A postulate cannot be judged as true or false. 
There is clearly no standard by which its truth or falsity 
could be judged, at least within the realm of discourse 
in which it belongs. It is rather to be thought of as more 
or less useful, desirable, or intelligible. 

(3) It will be observed that philosophic technique is 
really not one method, but an indefinite variety of 
methods. It would be an unjustified dogmatism to be- 


lieve that exactly the same type of analysis can be applied 
to mathematics, physics, sociology, ethics, economics, 
psychology. A general similarity in methods of analysis 
is however possible in these and similar fields, since they 
can all be given more or less adequate expression in logical 
propositions and logical terms. 

But there are other not less important aspects of ex- 
perience in dealing with which the possibilities of logical 
analysis are much more strictly limited. As prominent 
examples: the rather confused, haphazard world we usu- 
ally live in; such things as friendship, love, and luck; 
the interests of art and religion. In handling such aspects 
of experience, therefore, a developed philosophic technique 
must change its method to one more suited to the mean- 
ings they include. 


The last section no doubt leaves an impression of 
human knowledge and experience divided into discrete, 
unconnected partitions. It is just this impression that 
Section 2 was designed to counteract. Philosophical 
criticism is a working together of philosophic vision and 
philosophic technique; the two are part of the same 

Philosophy wishes to become critical toward experience: 
it wishes to understand what is meant by anything it is 
considering; and to do this it must understand also other 
actual or possible alternative meanings. All conscious- 
ness is potentially critical. We can perceive darkness only 
by a dimly remembered contrast with what it is not, with 
light; otherwise we could not recognize the perception 
of darkness as such. We can know red because it is not 
other colors. At a more complex level, even predomi- 
nantly uncritical beliefs, such as that any view inconsistent 
with certain divine revelations is false, or that all experi- 


ence can be adequately explained in physical terms, or 
that the accumulation of money is the ultimate human 
goal, are nevertheless critical to the extent that they can 
be held true only by implied contrast to other possible 
beliefs that are held false. 

Philosophy wishes to extend this process of criticism, to 
become conscious as fully as possible of the related alterna- 
tives and contrasts. The technique that has been out- 
lined is a method of achieving this within any given realm 
of discourse. But when the root terms and postulates 
have been reached, no further criticism is possible within 
that realm of discourse, since therein they are funda- 
mental. Criticism must then attempt what may be called, 
by analogy from the terms we have been employing, 
linguistic translation; it must interpret the postulates and 
root terms from the point of view of some other realm of 
discourse. Thus we may criticize ethics genetically, and 
show how our ideas of the good have grown from primitive 
taboos and social customs. This process is reversible 
(a point that is often overlooked), for we may equally 
well criticize the genetic approach ethically, and perhaps 
decide that it has little value. Likewise we may trace 
the relation between the structuralized notions of the 
sciences and the more familiar realities of the everyday 
world: the relation between the time of physics and our 
immediate experience of succession; or the relation al- 
ready suggested between mass and our feeling of weight 
and size. The mechanistic determinism postulated by 
science may act as a comment on religion; and religion 
in its turn, for those to whom it is real, will be as legitimate 
a comment on mechanism. There must be this viewing- 
together to complete and supplement the analysis. 

This does not mean that the philosophic attitude forbids 
the adoption of any definite point of view materialism 
or Catholicism or idealism or Communism or whatever 


it may be. It insists only that the point of view be 
understood and its limitations recognized. For, though 
no point of view is wholly uncritical, none cah be finally 
critical. In the end philosophy must be critical even 
toward itself. 

Perhaps in this discussion there have been suggested 
replies to the first objection to philosophy that we con- 
sidered: why has it never been able to answer the ques- 
tions it asks? why hasn't it progressed? Progress implies 
a fixed standard by which we can measure the degree of 
progress, but philosophy is critical toward standards, of 
whatever kind. If it is argued that Truth provides a 
standard, and that the gradual accumulations of true 
answers to its questions will constitute progress, philos- 
ophy points out that truth is a word, and like all words 
has many meanings. If we say that it is true that (a) all 
material bodies are acted upon by gravity; (b) two plus 
two equals four; (c) God is just; (d) that man is my 
friend; (e) beauty is truth these statements, the truths 
of which they are capable, and the ways in which we could 
know those truths are all perhaps unbridgeably different. 

Philosophy does have a practical value, though that 
value is generally exploited by the individual sciences. 
It raises fresh questions, suggests possibilities, new 
methods of investigation; and as these get put into definite 
enough form the sciences take them over and apply them. 
Indeed, the whole mathematical method, by which alone 
modern science was made possible, was a philosophical 

But, whether or not it would be possible, there is no 
necessity to justify philosophy on the grounds of its 
practical achievements. An ant or a bee gets a great deal 
done; and it may be sometimes suspected that a question 
admits of a definite answer only because it is, in the end, 
a rather unimportant question. 




The conclusions of the preceding chapter will suggest 
that philosophy might be called the study of meanings, 
the effort to understand different kinds of meaning and 
their relations to each other. This, then, presents us 
with a first question: "What is meaning? " and it will be 
the business of this chapter to make the question more 
intelligible. To make the question more intelligible, not 
to answer it. For it should be clear to begin with that this 
question, which is equivalent to, "What does meaning 
mean?" could never really be answered except in terms 
of itself. Nevertheless, there is a good deal we can say 
about it. 

Let us consider any conscious situation. But here we 
are met at the start with an apparently insurmountable 
difficulty, for a new question arises: "What is a conscious 
situation?" This can be given any number of verbal 
answers. We can say that a conscious situation is any- 
thing involving sensations, knowledge, thinking, feeling, 
anything in which there is an element of active awareness, 
whether of objects, emotions, ideas, laws, equations, 
truths, abstractions, persons, qualities, dreams, or angels. 
Such verbal substitutes and expansions do make more 
evident what is referred to by * a conscious situation/ 
but none of them nor all of them together can provide a 
wholly satisfactory definition. The reason for this is not 
hard to understand: consciousness is unique; everything 
else we can refer to has a meaning for consciousness in 



some way or other, and therefore cannot be an adequate 
substitute for consciousness. We can, therefore, describe 
consciousness only by metaphors (or some other figure of 
speech). A failure to understand the metaphorical nature 
of all descriptions or definitions of consciousness is re- 
sponsible for many puzzling problems in traditional 
philosophy. It will make this exposition clearer to il- 
lustrate certain of these misunderstandings. 

(1) From a common-sense viewpoint, we as conscious 
human beings are the relatively passive observers of a 
'reality' that lies outside us the ordinary world we 
know and sight is what most people suppose gives us 
our closest approach to this reality. It seems to disclose 
to us an 'external world' of objects in space and time. 
Now we can stand at a window, and look out on a yard 
full of grass, trees, people, etc. In thinking naively, we 
carry this experience of looking through a window over 
to our notion of visual consciousness; and, since visual 
consciousness (sight) seems to us the most important kind 
of consciousness, we tend to interpret all consciousness as 
an extraordinary type of 'looking through a window.' 
This metaphor, it may be imagined, has led to the many 
theories of an independent soul, autonomous and self- 
contained, using the bodily senses as windows through 
which to look out on reality (it is summed up, for instance, 
in poetry by the line, "The eye is window to the soul."). 
Such a view was at one time almost universal, and is still 

(2) A slightly more sophisticated view uses the meta- 
phor of a mirror. Consciousness is thought of as some- 
how reflecting events that go on outside of it. Many of 
the founders of modern philosophy, such as Sir Francis 
Bacon and Rene Descartes, in spite of their great dif- 
ferences on other points, were alike misled by a mirror 


Are not the organs of the senses of one kind with the organs 
of reflexion, the eye with a glass [ = mirror in Elizabethan Eng- 
lish] . . . l 

And the human understanding is like a false mirror, which, 
receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolours the nature of 
things by mingling its own nature with it. 2 

Descartes, on the other hand, believed that consciousness 
reflected the outer world truly, except so far as distorted 
by the will. 

(3) A view closely allied to this treats consciousness 
as a clean slate (tabula rasa) on which sense impressions 
make their marks; or as a formless putty, which passively 
receives sense impressions. The English school of phi- 
losophers in the eighteenth century (notably John Locke 
and Bishop George Berkeley) thought in terms of this 

The allied metaphors of both (2) and (3) lead to an 
insoluble problem : how can consciousness be of something 
entirely distinct from and outside of consciousness? 

(4) A fourth metaphor, not quite so easy to locate, be- 
cause it is not so clearly stated, may be considered a 
mould: consciousness is a mould of a certain definite 
shape and form, that is filled with a reality which, though 
in itself unknowable, must nevertheless conform to the 
shape of the mould. Some metaphor of this kind must 
have been present to Immanuel Kant, who, by elaborating 
it, tried to solve the difficulties of the English school. 

(5) The metaphor popular among many thinkers today 
is that of a telephone system (this is, for obvious reasons, 
confined to recent times; whereas the other four have long 
traditions in historical philosophy, though their vogue has 
succeeded in somewhat the order given). Consciousness 
is thought of as an infinitely complicated telephone ex- 
change; the afferent nerves bring in impulses to the spinal 

i Bacon, The Advancement 0} Learning. * Bacon, Novum Organum, I, 41. 


cord and brain, which combine and re-combine them with 
other impulses, and send out some combination over the 
motor nerves. This is, roughly, the view of modern psy- 
chology. But it will be observed that this view is totally 
different from all the others because, when carried to an 
extreme, it involves the denial of consciousness itself (a 
denial made explicit in dogmatic behaviorism). Nerves, 
glands, brain, etc., are all that is left. In other words, 
the question "What is consciousness?" is ruled out. It 
may of course be true that ruling out this question will 
prove the best method of solving many other (e.g. physio- 
logical) questions. But the question will still be there for 
whoever wishes to ask it. 1 

It is not necessary to understand all the complexities of 
these positions. The purpose of citing them is simply to 
show how each of them_results from taking too seriously 
what can never b^jorerth^ii^ metaphor. Furthermore, 
it suggests that the distinctions and analyses made in 
this chapter are not to be thought of as in any sense 
complete or final: they could not be so. They are tenta- 
tive approaches toward a partial clarity. 

Accordingly, in this book consciousness or awareness 
will be accepted as an undefined term, as discussed in 
Chapter I. Or, in other words, we shall take for granted 
that we know at least vaguely what we are talking about 
when we talk about 'a conscious situation/ 

With these modifications: In any conscious situation 
we may, for the purposes of analysis, distinguish the 
following elements: (i) a sign; (ii) something signified, 
which we shall call a meaning; (iii) a person for whom 
(or point of view for which) that sign has that meaning. 

Thus: (a) I hear a shout (sign) which signifies to me the 
presence of my friend so-and-so (meaning) ; (b) I see a 
red light (sign) which tells me to stop my car (meaning); 

1 This point will be discussed in greater detail in Chapter IX. 


(c) I feel a certain kind of pain (sign) which signifies to 
me a toothache (meaning) ; (d) I see a yellow paper with 
purple marks on it (sign telegram) which signifies to 
me certain of my wife's activities and feelings (meaning) ; 
(e) I hear a few musical notes (sign) which signify to me 
Brahms' First Symphony and many associations attached 
to it (meaning); (f) a physician sees yellow irises (sign) 
which signify to him jaundice (meaning); (g) a soldier 
feels a sting in his guts (sign) which signifies to him death 
(meaning); (h) a priest pronounces the words, Hoc est 
enim corpus meum (sign), which signify to him the mystery 
of transubstantiation (meaning); (i) a painter sees a 
landscape (sign) which signifies to him a brilliant imagined 
painting (meaning); (j) at a movie the audience sees a 
rose wilt (sign) which signifies to it the rape of the heroine 
(meaning); (k) in the laboratory an experimenter sees a 
needle move (sign) which signifies to him a million volts 
of electricity and a raise in salary (meaning) ; (1) a west- 
erner hears a sharp rattle (sign) which signifies to him 
snake-danger-run (meaning); (m) an astronomer hears 
a spoken word, 'universe' (sign), which signifies to him the 
stars and the milky way and the complex immensities 
of time and space (meaning); (n) a sailor looks at the 
stars and the milky way (sign) which signify to him 
"about a half hour more till a cup of coffee" (meaning). 
This, then, is the meaning situation : a sign, a meaning, 
a person. But, naturally, this analysis falsifies, like any 
other. It suggests, for instance, that consciousness or 
experience is static, and that we can isolate stable, un- 
changing units, signs and meanings. Experience is, on 
the contrary, always changing; it is organic, continuous, 
dynamic. And that is why there is no such thing as a 
'mere idea/ 'mental image,' or discrete 'mental event/ 
Every idea refers to something beyond itself; every sign 
has a meaning, some meaning: the problem is to de- 


termine what kind. The continuity of experience is 
emphasized when we speak of the 'stream' or 'flow' of 
consciousness. There are, of course, breaks, as when our 
attention is suddenly distracted (whence we speak of a 
'chain' or 'succession' of ideas). If the break is complete 
enough, we have the phenomena known as 'amnesia/ 
'aphasia,' 'double personality.' But even in these it is 
doubtful that there is real discontinuity. Even sleep or 
fainting or total anesthesia is not a complete break from 
the standpoint of the person involved; it is only by an 
ex post facto interpretation that he calls it a break. Real 
discontinuity is perhaps death; though those who believe 
in personal immortality would deny also this. 

Yet, though this analysis does in the end falsify, it is 
not wholly arbitrary. Experience does lend itself to in- 
terpretation in terms of signs and meanings. Indeed if 
it did not (the words used might be different) we could 
not continue living. If certain events could not be ac- 
cepted as signs for certain others (a roar for a lion, a 
fever for a disease, a visual impression for nourishing 
food), and if these signs were not repeated more or less 
similarly, experience would be chaotic, and we should 
soon succumb to the chaos. We could never form habits, 
never 'learn.' Any increase in knowledge includes the 
growing ability to handle signs, with the assurance that 
the manipulations of the signs will correspond to deter- 
minate relationships among the meanings they refer to: 
someone adds up a column of figures and thus discovers 
the total weight of a ship's cargo; the ship sails, the 
captain's confidence in the validity of the sign process of 
addition promising him that his ship will not sink on the 
voyage. But such considerations as these will occupy us 
further in later sections. We shall conclude this section 
with one more preliminary definition. 

We must distinguish between ordinary signs and re- 


flexive signs. This is a distinction the importance of which 
can hardly be over-rated. A^eflexivej^^ 
is itself part of its meaning. An ordinary sign merely 
directs attention to its meaning, as a recTTigfit to the 
action of stopping, or a menu to food, or a stock ticker 
to actual transactions in shares, or a timetable to the 
movements of trains. But a reflexive sign is also meant. 
For example, a certain Visual awareness* is a sign signi- 
fying 'my desk* to me; but it is also part of what I mean 
by 'my desk 1 ; it would certainly no longer be 'my desk' 
if I could not under any circumstances see it. My desk 
is something I can see, bump against in the dark, write on, 
sit on, etc.; any one of these aspects is essential to the 
whole of what I mean by my desk; and any one of them 
may be, in a proper context, a reflexive sign for the whole. 
The whole will never be part of my awareness. I can 
never see the whole desk at once or feel it all at once, 
but when I say that it 'belongs to me/ I do not mean that 
the word 'desk' or any particular aspect of the desk I 
may be aware of when making the statement (perhaps 
no more than a dim memory) belongs to me: I mean the 
whole group of all actual or possible aspects of the desk. 
In fact, an object can be defined as a function of its re- 
flexive signs; though the determination of just what signs 
are reflexive in any given case is extremely difficult. 
We shall return frequently to this distinction. 

Anything whatever, of any degree of complexity, may 
be either a sign or a meaning. Taking any conscious 
situation, our analysis of the meaning possibilities may 
proceed in any of a countless number of directions. We 
shall now proceed to examine two of them. 


From the many ambiguities in uses of the term ' think- 
ing* it will be useful to distinguish here between: (i) think- 


ing in the sense of any however desultory flow of con- 
sciousness, and (ii) thinking that is more systematically 
controlled by reference to its meanings. In the following 
passage from James Joyce's Ulysses, Leopold Bloom is 
thinking in the first sense: 

The far east. Lovely spot it must be: the garden of the 
world, big lazy leaves to float about on, cactuses, flowery meads, 
snaky lianas they call them. Wonder is it like that. Those 
Cinghalese lobbing around in the sun, in do Ice far niente. Not 
doing a hand's turn all day. Sleep six months out of twelve. 
Too hot to quarrel. Influence of the climate. Lethargy. 
Flowers of idleness. The air feeds most. Azotes. Hothouse in 
Botanic gardens. Sensitive plants. Water lilies. Petals too 
tired to. Sleeping sickness in the air. Walk on roseleaves. 
Imagine trying to eat tripe and cowheel. Where was the chap 
I saw in that picture somewhere? Ah, in the dead sea, floating 
on his back, reading a book with a parasol open. Couldn't sink 
if you tried: so thick with salt. Because the weight of the water, 
no, the weight of the body in the water is equal to the weight 
of the. Or is it the volume is equal to the weight? It's a law 
something like that. Vance in High school cracking his finger- 
joints, teaching. The college curriculum. Cracking cur- 
riculum. . . . 

In the second sense, which we may call 'reasoning/ In- 
spector French was thinking: 

Now, if you think, you will see that the entire case follows 
from those two statements. Let us run over it. If Joss gave the 
sleeping draught shortly after leaving London, as he said, and if 
Sir John was murdered within eight to ten hours of receiving it, 
death must have occurred, say, between four and six o'clock 
that morning. If this were so it follows absolutely that the 
murder took place in the train. There is no escape from this 
conclusion except by assuming that Sir John got a second sleep- 
ing draught on the next evening, which would be a bit too far- 
fetched a coincidence for real life. 


Now, if this is correct, it is obvious that it was not Sir John 
who crossed to Ireland, and therefore that he was impersonated 
by the traveller to Sandy Row, and second, that in some way 
his body was removed from the train before the latter reached 
Stranraer. Where could these changes have been made? The 
affair at Castle Douglas at once gives the answer. This view is 
confirmed by the brown cloaks and the ladder, as well as by the 
insistence that the sleeping berths should be on the right-hand 
side of the train, all of which were necessary for the ex- 
change. . . . l 

The second type of thinking is differentiated from the 
first by having the thoughts that make it up fitted 
coherently into a practical situation and a logical struc- 
ture. Joyce, the author, was probably thinking in the 
second sense when he wrote the first passage quoted, 
because he was selecting those arrangements of words 
that could communicate to a reader Bloom's experience; 
but Bloom himself is not (in this sense) thinking. 

A psychologist might be interested equally in both 
types of thinking, but the second has a 'logical validity' 
that the first lacks. We might characterize thinking of 
the first type as fast or slow, heavy or light, calm or 
impassioned; the second type, however, would be called 
''valid' or 'invalid' (when its logical structure is in ques- 
tion), or 'true' or 'false' (when we are concerned with its 
conformity or non-conformity with some standard). Thus 
we can still understand the reasoning of Aristotle, which is, 
possibly, alive today; but his thinking (in the first sense) 
died twenty-three centuries ago. 

There is no sharp division between thinking and reason- 
ing. Border line cases run together, and we are often 
deceived by the successful results of a haphazard thinking 
process into believing that we have actually carried out 
a carefully planned line of reasoning. 

1 Freeman Wills Crofts, Sir John Magitts Last Journey. 


Each person being a ' sport of nature,' jeu de T amour et du 
hasardy it results that the highest ambition and even the deepest 
thoughts of this improvised creature are inevitably affected by 
their origin. His activity is always relative, and his master- 
pieces are casual. He thinks perishably, he thinks as an 
individual, he thinks by lucky flukes; and he merely blunders 
on the best of his ideas, since they spring from secret and 
fortuitous occasions which he hesitates to confess. 1 

In our analysis at present, however, we are primarily 
concerned with more or less controlled thinking, or 
reasoning. For convenience, it will be useful to distinguish 
four stages in a typical reasoning process: (jt) observation, 
($ interpretation, (j^f rational elaboration, (^f) verifica- 
tion. Stated thus, they are merely an abstract scheme. 
These stages are not always separate in time, nor all 
equally emphasized, nor do they represent the only pos- 
sible way of analyzing. Intellectual problems differ in 
type, and the reasoning processes applicable to them 
correspondingly differ. Still, something will be gained 
by taking up carefully each stage, and its possibilities. 
(1) Observation. Observation is not merely a first step 
in the reasoning process, but usually a thread running 
through the whole process. It is, however, more promi- 
nent at the beginning, since it gives rise to the problem 
which the reasoning sets out to solve. On the basis of our 
observations we gradually come to certain conclusions. 
The observations present themselves as potential signs 
whose meanings are obscure or conflicting; the reasoning 
process tries to clarify and elaborate the meanings (as 
when, for instance, a physician tries to identify certain 
observed symptoms with the usual symptoms of some 
known disease and thus predict their probable conse- 
quences). This might be called a forward or advancing 
process. But we can reverse our direction, and from a 

1 Paul Valry, Variety ', tr. by Malcolm Cowley. 


new point of view treat what were formerly the signs as 
meanings. That is, we can seek to analyze the observa- 
tion itself, and to discover its constituents. We can ask 
the question: just what do we observe? 

Let us take an elementary example, such as: I hear a 
mouse, and conclude that there must be unprotected food 
somewhere about the house. Here the first part, "I 
hear a mouse," is, presumably, the observation. That 
is what we start out with, as given. But if we reflect on 
this observation we might concluHe that strictly speaking 
what we hear is not a mouse but only a certain sound 
which we automatically interpret as a sign signifying the 
presence of a mouse somewhere in space and time (now, 
back of the wainscoting). A very complex activity seems 
to have been carried out instantaneously, without our 
being aware of it: something happens, in some way related 
to our consciousness; this connects itself up with other 
similar events in the past which have been accompanied 
either by visual experiences (which we call the appearance 
of a mouse) or by the sound of the word 'mouse* (heard 
or imagined) or by tactual sensations of something soft 
and squirmy and of sharp teeth or by certain feelings of 
disgust, fright, or affection, or by all or any combination 
of these and other experiences. 1 If we had never before 
encountered an experience in which a mouse entered, 
nor read about or heard about mice, we should never 
have observed the mouse as a mouse. 

Any observation whatever may be analyzed in this 
way. But many people who would accept the analysis 
in the case of "I hear a mouse" might hesitate in the case 
of "I see a mouse." In sight, as has already been noted, 

1 This is explained by physiological psychology in terms of engrams, con- 
ditioned reflexes, motor blocks, established neural patterns, etc. Any standard 
textbook of psychology may be consulted in this connection. The analysis 
given in this section is logical rather than physiological, and does not depend 
on any particular physiological or psychological theory. 


we seem to have a direct acquaintance: there is the 
mouse, right before us. But here, again, analysis seems to 
reveal that there is only a certain visual awareness acting 
as a sign instantaneously signifying the whole complex of 
meanings which we call a mouse. Even the visual aware- 
ness is complex, for our observation that we are seeing 
something gray and moving out there in space depends 
on a previous knowledge of spatial relations. The mouse 
is not simply something seen: he has weight, extension, 
life, habits, can be felt, killed, eaten, etc. The sight of 
the mouse is thus a reflexive sign standing for the total 
function of meanings that is the mouse, as we can know 

We may connect this with what was said above 
(page 30) about the impossibility of there being a 'mere 
idea* or 'discrete mental image/ We can never have a 
completely isolated, 'unit* experience: we could not know 
it, or what would amount to the same thing, it would not 
be a person who was having it. The logical conditions 
of experience seem to be: (a) an event somehow related 
to our consciousness; (b) the relation of this event to 
other past events connected with our consciousness; 
(r) the grasping together of the new and old events in 
such a way as to make up the actual conscious experience. 
Without the organization implied by the third condition 
we should never reach more than an idiot's view of life, 
such as has been studied by William Faulkner in his 
novel, The Sound and the Fury. The idiot Benjy in this 
novel "hears the roof" instead of hearing the rain (on 
the roof); when the light is turned out in his room at 
night, "the room goes away," instead of, as we should say, 
becoming no longer visible. These three conditions are 
not steps, separated by time intervals; they are logical 
conditions, without which, apparently, we should not 
be conscious. 


Yet there is something naturally repellent about this 
analysis of observation, and the way it is carried out 
should suggest a warning against drawing too hasty con- 
clusions from it. For in actual experience we do see a 
mouse, a table, a spoon, a person, or whatever it may be, 
and it is something of a perversion to say that actually we 
do not see them but interpret automatically some bare 
unknown awareness. And it should always be remembered 
that it is the finished, meaningful observation that forms 
the starting point of our analysis, though the analysis 
forces us to suppose that the logical starting point is 
elsewhere. Consequently, it is dangerous to become dog- 
matic about the nature of 'reality' on the basis of the 
analysis. Nevertheless, that this analysis, or one some- 
thing like it, is called for (though we cannot be sure what 
its importance is), receives additional and striking support 
from the two following considerations. 

(i) The possibility of error. If we never had reason to 
believe that we had made mistakes in our observations 
we should probably never have raised any questions about 
the nature of observation. But, alas, the realization of 
the fallibility of our observations is forced on us every 
hour. The mouse we hear turns out to be only a piece 
of plaster falling inside the wall; the man we see, while 
walking on a foggy night, is only a tree stump; the article 
we have corrected half a dozen times in proof, when finally 
printed has still four or five typographical errors. In a 
sense, of course, it is not the observation that is wrong. 
We did have the conscious experience of hearing a mouse, 
seeing a man, and reading correctly spelled words. But 
we do not stop there; and as soon as it becomes necessary 
to fit these experiences into a more elaborate situation, 
they become conflicting. We walk nearer the supposed 
man, and presently he no longer looks like a man but 
like a stump. If we have any doubts left, we can feel 


the stump, or try to talk to it. We conclude, finally, that 
we must call our first observation an 'illusion/ The same 
thing happens in the case of a mirage: the traveler 'sees' 
the oasis definitely enough; but his later experiences con- 
vince him that it does not conform to the requirements 
of being a 'real' oasis he walks toward it and does 
not get any nearer, and finally it disappears, both of 
which characteristics do not apply to 'real objects/ Now, 
and this is often overlooked, as illusions and mirages the 
experiences in question may be 'real' enough, and as such 
they must be taken into account. But they are not 
'real' in the ordinary sense of the term: they do not meet 
requirements we have come to expect of 'objects'; they 
do not fit into a structure of meaning possibilities that 
seems to be not wholly dependent on our own individual 
experience. The only intelligible explanation for this 
conflict seems to be that all observation involves an auto- 
matic and nearly instantaneous interpretation, an in- 
terpretation that we may not be in the least conscious of. 
And, since an interpretation is involved, it follows that 
any observation at all may be mistaken, that is that it 
may not turn out to signify the meanings that we expected 
of it. 

It must be insisted that this is apparently true of any 
observation whatever. Scientists often argue that ob- 
served experiments in laboratories are indisputable 'facts,' 
and cannot be denied. But we can analyze any scientific 
experiment in just the same way that we analyzed the 
experience of seeing or hearing a mouse. What does 
the scientist observe? He may say that he has, for 
example, observed the variations in the resistance of a 
certain coil to an electric current under given changing 
conditions. But has he seen or heard or touched this 
* resistance' or this 'electric current' or even this 'coil' 
(which is probably concealed under many layers of in- 


sulation) ? Of course not. He has been watching certain 
needles move across certain numbered scales, and he has 
interpreted the numbers and movements in his own way. 
And even the observation of the moving needles, as we 
have seen, involves an elaborate interpretation on the 
basis of related past events. A 'fact* is distinguished 
from other observations only because its interpretation 
is so generally accredited. 

(ii) 'The changing character of what we observe. The 
second consideration which seems to make this analysis 
of observation necessary is based on the changes in what 
we observe. This is related to 'errors/ but has even wider 

We are forced from many points of view to conclude 
that the world of familiar experience, in spite of its 
appearance of stability and definiteness, is yet not the 
same for all persons, nor for the same person at different 
times. * Since this will be discussed later, in other connec- 
tions, we need mention here only one or two of the more 
obvious arguments leading to this conclusion. A first is 
founded on the study of infant psychology. This is 
evidently indirect, for none of us knows just what the 
experience of a baby is like. A baby will, for example, 
reach for a bright object that it sees. But, when the 
baby is very young, it will reach in the same way whether 
the object is near enough to be well within its grasp, or 
some distance away. It is natural to suppose from this 
that the baby has only the most chaotic idea of space; 
that the baby's world is not arranged spatially the way 
ours is. Moreover, a baby will not associate the size, 
color, texture, and weight of objects as we do; and in 
general, its world seems to be what William James has 
called "a blooming, buzzing confusion" a confusion at 
least from our point of view. 

We do not have to rely, however, on the somewhat 


risky reconstructions from the conduct of babies. We 
can reach the same conclusions from a reflective examina- 
tion of our own more developed experience. When, for 
example, we hear a complicated symphony for the first 
time it is likely to sound like a confused jumble of music. 
When we get to know it better, after we have studied it 
perhaps, and hear it again, we shall recognize definite 
themes and melodies related together in an intelligible 
manner. Though it may be the same group of phonograph 
records that we are playing, we shall actually be 'hearing' 
something different. The same thing is true of the ex- 
perience of looking at a painting: at first sight we may 
'see' nothing of the careful pyramidal composition that 
has been used by the artist; and when we do work it out, 
the whole quality of the painting for us will be profoundly 
modified. What is of additional interest is that, once we 
recognize the themes or the composition, we can never get 
back to the original experience, or anything like'it: we 
shall always hear or see in the new way. Another ex- 
perience of the same sort occurs frequently: a man has 
lived all his life within sight of a group of hills, without 
noticing anything strange about them; if one day a 
friend points out that a certain hill looks just like a man 
(or an animal of some kind or a sugar loaf, or whatever 
it may be), and if the first man can bring himself to 'see' 
the resemblance, he will very probably never be able not 
to see it in the future. Again, an Easterner in the West 
for the first time will usually, because of the clarity of the 
atmosphere, misjudge greatly all distances. He will 
'see' a range of mountains about three miles away, and 
will discover his mistake only when he has ridden many 
times the distance to reach them. But when he has grown 
accustomed to this, he will then and forever after, 'see' 
the mountains at twenty miles. The pictures in Sunday 
Supplements, in which you are supposed to 'find' two 


squirrels are more obvious examples: at first, though you 
look carefully at the picture from every point of view, 
you see nothing of them; when they are found, you can- 
not prevent yourself from seeing them. Hearing a foreign 
and unknown language provides additional curious testi- 
mony: to an American speaking only American, other 
languages, such as French and Italian, sound extremely 
fast, jumbled, elided, and careless. A Frenchman or 
Italian, however, will so characterize the speech of an 
American, and thinks his own language graceful, clear, 
and easy, with each sound exactly differentiated. History 
suggests even more extraordinary instances of these 
changes in what we observe. There is reason to believe 
that today we actually see the stars as farther away from 
us, than they were seen in Greece or medieval Europe. 
And astronomers have testified that they see the sun as a 
sphere rather than as the disc that most of us see. 

These examples could be multiplied endlessly. Once 
again, the only intelligible explanation seems to be that 
observation, any observation, includes complex automatic 

(2) Interpretation. In the last section it has been 
shown how there is interpretation in all observation, how- 
ever elementary. But interpretation, starting with ob- 
servation, may go on more or less deliberately, in what "has 
been referred to as an advancing or forward direction. 
And in most problems that come up, this forward inter- 
pretation is the only one in question. We accept the 
results of observation as signs, and concern ourselves 
with the elucidation of the meanings they stand for. 
The interpretation involved in observation and the more 
deliberate interpretation from observation are thus not 
to be thought of as exactly the same process: not only is 
the first 'unconscious' and automatic, but only after a 
complicated and indirect analysis do we conclude that it 


has taken place; the second, on the other hand, is always 
at least partly deliberate and conscious, is subject to 
control, and is an activity familiar to anyone whether 
or not he has studied its characteristics. Let us take a 
simple example. 

A physician is called to visit a patient, and after a brief, 
routine examination, has observed a group of symptoms, 
*> JV> z ( a flushed face, a fever of 102, a pulse ten 
beats above normal, a sore throat, a headache, loss of 
appetite, listlessness, etc.). Taking the observed symp- 
toms as signs, his job is to diagnose from them the disease 
from which the patient is suffering, that is to clarify the 
meaning of these signs. Now what we call influenza 
is a combination of the symptoms x y y y z . . . with certain 
other symptoms a y b y c . . . (including^ for instance, the 
continuance of this or an even higher fever for several 
days, certain intestinal disturbances, often certain con- 
gestions in the lungs, etc.). If in the physician's ex- 
perience, actual and imagined, x, jy, z . . . had been 
invariably connected with a, b y c . . . , his diagnosis of 
influenza might be so prompt as to be swallowed up in 
the initial observations; and he could say "you have 
influenza" as confidently as, under other circumstances, 
he might have said, "I see a mouse/' 

Unfortunately the physician's problem is seldom this 
clear cut. x, y, z . . . can signify other meanings be- 
sides influenza: e.g. they are sometimes connected with 
d> e> f (the diminution or absence of reflex action, the 
subsidence of the fever in a day or so, subsequent paralysis 
of certain muscles, etc.), in a new combination that we call 
poliomyelitis (infantile paralysis). And they may be 
symptoms of still other diseases. The fact that x,y,z . . . 
(the observed signs, or symptoms) may signify any of 
several meanings raises serious difficulties. Influenza, 
paralysis, or the other diseases may any one of them 


be the correct interpretation; and until we have further 
grounds for choosing among them, they must all be re- 
garded as rival hypotheses, none as yet established. 

In some cases a y b, c . . . and d, e y f . . . are directly 
observable symptoms, and the physician can merely wait 
for one or the other set to appear, whereupon one hypoth- 
esis is verified and the other discarded. If, for instance, 
the patient develops paralysis of the leg muscles in a few 
days, the poliomyelitis hypothesis will be fairly certainly 
upheld. No lengthy process of reasoning would be neces- 
sary, and we should not need to treat 'rational elaboration ' 
as a separate part of the thinking process. But, in the 
present example, this would be most disadvantageous 
from the point of view of the patient, since the treatments 
for influenza and paralysis are usually different. There 
is obviously much to be gained by deciding at once be- 
tween the hypotheses, on the basis if possible of what has 
already been observed, and thus anticipating through 
reasoning the conjectural future observations. 

Indeed, without a certain amount of rational analysis, 
it would probably be impossible to verify any hypothesis 
by observation. Because we should not know what to 
look for. If poliomyelitis did not occur to the physician 
as a possibility, he would never think of trying to verify 
it by testing the reflex actions of his patient. As a con- 
scientious and competent physician he will observe a 
great many symptoms before coming to his conclusions; 
but reasoning (and imagination) are necessary in knowing 
what observations are relevant. The religion of the patient 
or his income or his political prejudices would not help 
him decide between the hypotheses; but the patient's age 
(if he were adult, it would probably not be paralysis), his 
previous diseases, and such more general conditions as the 
presence of an epidemic of one of the diseases in the 
community, clearly would. 


The necessity for rational elaboration before verifica- 
tion can be possible is even more evident in the advanced 
stages of the sciences. When an abstract law is formu- 
lated in physics the physicist must reason long and care- 
fully before he knows what experimental results (what 
possible observations) might be expected if the law were 
true. One of the great difficulties with the theories of 
relativity physics is that mathematical physicists have 
been able to figure out so few experiments by which they 
could be tested. Moreover, there are other problems in 
which rational elaboration takes the place of empirical 
verification, as in demonstrating a theorem in 'pure' 
mathematics, or (with certain modifications) in reasoning 
about values. 

^(3) Rational Elaboration. Rational elaboration carries 
on, more coherently and systematically, the process of 
interpretation. It is the activity usually referred to when 
we speak of 'reasoning'; but we should not think of 
reasoning as marked' off in any magical way from the 
rest of our activities. We have been tracing its develop- 
ment from observation and elementary interpretation. 
Reasoning may be thought of as arising when habitual 
or so called 'instinctive' responses are unable to meet 
some situation with which we are confronted. It is our 
habit, let us say, to put our watch on the bureau every 
night before going to bed, and to pick it up again in the 
morning while dressing, without ever thinking about it. 
If one morning it were not on the bureau we might begin 
looking everywhere about the room and other rooms until 
we happened, perhaps, to find it (trial and error method). 
On the other hand, the strangeness of the situation (not 
seeing the watch in its customary place) might shock us 
into reasoning: instead of looking at once, we might do 
some of the looking in imagination (that is, we might 
reason); remembering how late we had gone to bed the 


night before might suggest that we had left the watch on 
the chair with the suit we had taken off; or, remembering 
that the watch had been slow lately might suggest that we 
had taken it to the jewellers. Eugenio Rignano defines rea- 
soning as "nothing else . . . than a series of operations or 
experiments simply thought of," or, we might add, of 
possible future observations anticipated imaginatively. 
Rignano gives the following illustrations of his definition: 

I mislay my umbrella, and ask myself whether I have not left 
it in one of the places where I had to stop this morning. But I 
recollect that it has not ceased raining the whole morning, so at 
once reason thus: it is impossible that I returned home without 
my umbrella; otherwise I should have been drenched; which 
did not happen, as I had no need to change my clothes. 

Here my reasoning consists solely in the fact that I imagine 
myself running through the street in the rain without an um- 
brella. This experience, occurring in thought alone, results, as 
I already know, in a certain state of my clothes (drenched 
clothes), which is different from what was actually the case. 1 

It was a similar process of reasoning that led Galileo, before 
he had recourse to experimental verification, to 'prove' that the 
velocities of two falling bodies, contrary to the Aristotelian 
doctrine which prevailed up till then, do not depend on the 
respective weights of these bodies at all. This reasoning was 
essentially the performance in thought only of the experiment 
which served him afterwards for an actual verification. The 
experiment consisted in finding a body double the weight of 
another and dropping these two bodies together from the same 
height. "I pictured to myself" he tells, "two bodies of equal 
mass and weight such as two bricks, falling from the same height 
at the same moment. It is obvious that these two bodies will 
descend with the same velocity, that is to say with the velocity 
assigned to them by nature. If this velocity had to be in- 
creased by some other body, the latter must necessarily move 
with a greater velocity. But, // the bricks are imagined jailing 

1 The Psychology of Reasoning, p. 72. 


united and attached to each other > which of the two will it be that, 
by adding its impetus to the other, is able to double the velocity 
of the other, since this velocity cannot be increased by the 
supervention of another body if the latter does not move with a 
greater velocity? From this it must be granted that the union 
of the two bricks does not alter their primitive velocity." l 

Of course, as we get more adept at handling signs of dif- 
ferent orders the necessity for actual pictorial imaginings 
gradually disappears. If a South African native knew 
that whiskey cost three skins a bottle, and he wanted 
seven bottles, he would probably have to count out the 
skins three by three. We can get the result in one mental 
operation because we know the multiplication table. But 
whoever invented the multiplication table had to do the 
actual counting out mentally. 

These examples will suggest two considerable ad- 
vantages that reasoning has over actual experimenting: 
First, reasoning is usually quicker, simpler, and often 
safer. The last characteristic is especially important 
since some experiments, such as suicide or murder, are 
irrevocable; hence it is well to rehearse mentally their 
probable results before attempting to carry them out. 
In the second place, reasoning has a more general demon- 
strative value than experiments and is more 'fruitful/ 
since it reveals relations, which actual experimenting 
(at least if unaccompanied by reasoning) would not do. 
An experiment tells us something about itself alone. Only 
reasoning will tell us how the results of that experiment 
may be expected to apply to other similar experiments. 
A proposition from Euclid may be expected to apply in 
theory to any triangle; actual measurement applies only 
to the one measured. 

These, and other, advantages of reasoning over ex- 
perimenting are impressive and important. But the 

1 Ibid.> pp. 75-6. 


dangers in not checking up our reasoning, to which we 
shall return in Chapter V, are no less evident; and we may 
well give heed to Francis Bacon when he writes, "God 
forbid that we should give out a dream of our own 
imagination for a pattern of the world . . ." 

Let us consider two concrete situations that might call 
for a certain amount of rational elaboration: (i) "There 
is a corpse"; (2) "Oh, how I'd like to marry Belinda!" 
In knowing these situations to begin with, we shall already 
have interpreted them in various ways. In the case of 
the first, we shall have concluded that it is a corpse rather 
than a stuffed mummy or an hallucination; of the second, 
that Belinda is of a certain sex, age, appearance, charac- 
ter that offer possibilities which give a certain meaning 
to marriage. But a more rigorous analysis of the 
meanings of the situations may be required. 

In analyzing any situation, we can discover it to have 
(as in the example of the physician's diagnosis) an in- 
definitely large number of properties that is, meanings 
which the situation, taken as a sign, legitimately signifies. 
Any one of these properties, or any group of them, may 
be abstracted, may be considered apart from the one 
concrete situation as a whole. Meeting a dog, we may 
consider the property of having four legs apart from the 
situation of seeing this particular dog. When a property 
is thus abstracted, light is thrown on a number of its 
relations which would without this emphasis be obscured; 
and these now discerned relations may in their turn 
throw fresh light on the original situation. 

Let a stand for the original situation. 

Let b stand for the property that we have abstracted 
from it. 

Let c stand for some other property or situation which 
is in some way associated with b. 


If, then, we judge a to have the property b (the judg- 
ment might be nearly instantaneous, or might come only 
after a searching analysis); and if we judge b to be a sign 
of c ; we may infer that 0, also, is in some sense a sign of c. 
Let us apply this to our first concrete situation: 

Let a be the corpse that we see. 

Let b be the property of having certain distinctive 
bruises and discolorations, which our examination has 
convinced us may be asserted of the corpse. 

Let c be a situation supposedly signified by b: e.g., that 
a murderer has been at work. 

Here are three terms in our argument. To begin with, 
we are maintaining two propositions about the relations 
that hold among them: (p) that the corpse has the 
property of having these bruises and discolorations (a is 
a sign of b} ; (q) that these indicate that a murderer has 
been at work (b is a sign of c). From p and q a third propo- 
sition is inferred: (r) that the corpse indicates that a 
murderer has been at work (a is a sign of c). Propositions 
p and q are the materials out of which the argument is 
built, and are called premises. Proposition r, which we 
infer by using propositions/) and q y is called the conclusion. 1 

Of course, any actual process of reasoning is not likely 
to be as simple as this; and, in fact, the conclusion 
reached in this example might have been drawn so rapidly 
that we should not have distinguished the steps in the 
reasoning. Ordinarily we are not content to stop at a 
single conclusion. Having reasoned to the conclusion r, 

1 In traditional logic it is customary to use the letters S, M, and P for *, b> 
and c respectively. S, the subject of the conclusion, is called the minor term; P, 
the predicate of the conclusion, is called the major term; M, the term that forms 
the link between the two, is called the middle term. It is also customary to 
distinguish between the two premises: proposition/), which contains the minor 
term, is called the minor premise; proposition q, which contains the major term, 
is called the major premise. 


we might extend the process, perhaps in some such way as 
the following. We might treat c y the situation now 
arrived at, as a new starting point; and from it we might 
abstract some one property, let us say its moral aspect, 
its wrongness (d). This in turn would call up the idea of 
justifiable punishment (e). As before, these connections 
might be"expressed as logically related propositions leading 
to some such conclusion as, "The murderer who has been 
at work here ought to be punished/' 

It will be noted that one of the premises implicit in this 
second argument ("Where a murderer has been at work 
wrong has been done") is a different kind of proposition 
from the major premise in the first argument ("The 
bruises indicate that a murderer has been at work"). 
The proposition asserting a connection between b and c 
is a factual or descriptive one, since what it asserts is an 
actual connection between certain marks on a dead body 
and the work of a murderer. The proposition introducing 
d as its predicate, on the other hand, is a normative or 
evaluative. one. What is maintained is not an actual connec- 
tion, but an ideal relation often not carried out in actual 
affairs; the wrongness of murder makes it fitting that the 
murderer should be punished, whether he actually is or not. 

Probably no arguments are wholly factual or wholly 
normative, but they may be predominantly one or the 
other. The above argument as it started out was factual, 
and then became normative. The reasoning that might 
be carried on from the second situation given above 
("Oh, how I'd like to marry Belinda!") would no doubt 
be both factual and normative. The factual elements 
would include a survey of the best methods of bringing 
about the marriage and the likelihood of their success, 
together with a calculation of their effects expense in 
money and time, loss of solitude, etc. The normative 
arguments would attempt to judge the goods of marriage 


as balanced against the goods that might, as a result of 
marriage, be lost. 

(4) Verification. Wherever it is possible, verification 
of the conclusions may be considered a last step in the 
reasoning process as it has here been outlined. In factual 
problems verification, however difficult it may be, at 
least will usually have a definite meaning. We can find 
the murderer and make him confess, or an eyewitness and 
make him tell what he saw. However, no verification 
is absolute; some doubt will always be left: the murderer 
may be lying, or the eyewitness mistaken in what he thinks 
he saw. Moreover, as has already been noted, there are 
certain supposedly factual problems in which it is ex- 
tremely difficult to know what kind of evidence would 
constitute verification. A possible example of such a 
situation is shown in the so-called Fitzgerald Contraction, 
a theory which was formerly used to explain certain 
anomalies in physics. According to this theory all ob- 
served lengths contract in proportion to their velocity 
relative to the observer. But apparently this contraction 
could not be measured in any usual sense, since any 
measuring instrument would also contract a correspond- 
ing amount. This suggests an important corollary: even 
in factual problems, verification is possible only when 
we are agreed on the kind of evidence which might con- 
stitute verification. The history of science shows how 
necessary it is to keep this in mind. For instance, many 
of the same experiments that were once supposed to prove 
the theory of phlogiston in chemistry were later used to 
disprove it, after rational elaboration had suggested new 
hypotheses about the constitution of matter. 

In problems in pure mathematics, verification lies en- 
tirely in the rational elaboration from given undefined 
terms and postulates. It would be absurd to appeal to 
observation or experiment to prove the binomial theorem. 


Moreover, in predominantly normative (moral and 
esthetic) problems verification loses much of its meaning 
for a somewhat different reason. For here the truth in 
the situation is partly, though not wholly, made by the 
very process of reasoning. To return to the example 
already given, and ask, " Which do I really want, Belinda 
or solitude?" If on rationally elaborating the problem 
I conclude that solitude is better, and then apply my con- 
clusion by actually giving up Belinda, there is obviously 
no possible experimental proof that I have or have not 
made the better choice. True, I may later regret my 
solitude, but that does not prove me wrong. Belinda 
might have been worse. Even if later I change my mind, 
marry Belinda, and thereby gain great happiness, that 
does not prove that I would have gained the same happi- 
ness had I married her at first. Perhaps the interval of 
absence was what decided the outcome. Or again, even 
if, after giving up Belinda, I do regret my solitude, I 
may as a reasoning being treat this regret as a new 
situation to be rationally elaborated. And I may con- 
clude that the regret is wrong, that however much I still 
long for Belinda, I ought not long for her. In other words, 
values are not wholly dependent on facts; and for this 
reason, the factual verification of value or normative 
problems is largely irrelevant. 


We have seen that reasoning involves the analysis, 
elucidation, and structuralization of meanings. Certain 
aspects of experience are taken as signs, signifying certain 
meanings; these meanings are analyzed into constituents, 
and one or more of these constituents are in turn taken 
as signs pointing toward other meanings. There is 
clearly no limit to the possibilities of this process. It 


may be asked, however, just why we take this particular 
sign as a sign of that particular meaning. Why do we 
interpret the property of having certain bruises as the 
sign of a murderer's work rather than of, say, indigestion? 
The answer to this is to be found in the relatedness of 
experience, and the ability of every element of experience, 
acting as a sign, to mean more than itself. Of course, in a 
sense, this is not an answer: that experience should be 
more or less coherently related is simply a fact, and can- 
not be accounted for except tautologously, by saying 
that it is the character of experience to be related. It 
is impossible even to imagine a completely disordered 
experience, since there are no terms in which it could 
be imagined all our terms being a part of our experi- 

From one point of view, experience is ceaselessly chang- 
ing; but meanings within experience present relatively 
static aspects, and are associated in various ways. 
Through these associations, certain elements in a present 
conscious situation are recognized as 'identical with* or 
related to elements in past conscious situations. We are 
enabled to say: "This is the same house I saw yesterday," 
or, "A certain similarity to past experiences suggests 
that this is a gun." These associations lead on to others: 
if it is the same house, we shall expect to find in it the 
same rooms and the same people; if we are right about the 
alleged gun, we shall expect it to behave like a gun (e.g., 
we shall expect other elements in future experiences to 
be related as they have been in past experiences of 'guns' 
if we load it and pull the trigger, we shall expect it to 
fire). Most corpses displaying a certain type of bruise 
have been the work of murderers; presumably this one is 

We have already seen that even the simplest observa- 
tion ("I hear a mouse") presupposes such association, 


that without it experience would be impossible. If con- 
sciousness were merely the passive recording of what 
went on in some mysterious way outside of it, it would 
be like a needle recording on a chart the variations 
in the electrical output of a generator. From the stand- 
point of the electrician the curve traced by the needle 
may have all kinds of meanings, symmetries and harmo- 
nies; but for the needle there is only the one point 
where it happens to be. Consciousness on the contrary 
overlaps itself in all sorts of ways: its more direct 
meanings are related variously to an indefinite variety of 
meanings. The psychological basis of these relations is 
studied as the so-called laws of association. It would be 
foolish, however, to suppose that we could ever know 
all the laws of association. Not only are they far too 
complex, but the articulate knowledge of them would 
itself alter them. 1 

Though we shall never know what associations led 
Einstein to his equations or Gerard Manley Hopkins to 
his metaphors, a very little reflection discloses many types 
of association constantly at work. Putting a nickel in 
the subway turnstile has always enabled us to go through, 
and we therefore suppose that it will this time. Turning 
the switch has always made the light go on, and we sup- 
pose that it will continue to do so; we are so sure of it 
that we speak of 'turning on the light' instead of 'turning 
the switch/ The similarity between spatial arrangements 
in a present experience and those of a past remembered 

1 The interested reader may again be referred to any standard textbook of 
psychology. The laws are sometimes grouped under such headings as: (i) fre- 
quency of past association; (2) similarity and contrast; (3) spatio-temporal 
continuity and contiguity; (4) emotional congruity; (5) functional relatedness; 
(6) vividness of past association. The beginnings of the study of the physiologi- 
cal basis of association have been made in this century under the leadership of 
Dr. I. P. Pavlov, whose chief book, Conditioned Reflexes^ may also be consulted 
in this connection. 


experience make us believe we are in the same place and 
observing the same objects. Seeing one color reminds us 
of other colors; a hot summer day of a cold winter day. 
If we are sad over something that happened today, we 
may remember something otherwise entirely different that 
happened when we were sad once before. All these types 
of association are classified variously by psychologists. 
Without entering into their intricacies, we shall conclude 
the discussion of association with two general observa- 

(1) The importance of the context. In trying to dis- 
cover the type of association involved by any situation it 
is necessary to take into account, so far as is possible, the 
whole relevant context. When the physician is interpret- 
ing the observed symptoms in his patient, not merely 
what he 'sees' is important in conditioning his interpreta- 
tion (diagnosis), but also such facts as the presence of an 
epidemic in the neighborhood, the medical history of the 
patient, etc. When events succeed each other in an ex- 
traordinary fashion, apparently violating ' physical laws ' 
as when, for instance, we get in a taxi from one part of 
town to another without seeming to cross all the inter- 
vening streets; or when we watch a young lady on the 
stage apparently rising from the floor though we should 
recognize these experiences as real enough in their way, 
we should in interpreting them remember that in the one 
case we were drunk and in the other witnessing the 
performance of a 'magician/ Moreover, an essential 
element of 'the whole relevant context' will always be 
our interests, activities, and attitudes. For the physician, 
the patient's symptoms will signify some disease or other; 
for an enemy of the patient, perhaps an ugly disposition; 
for a friend, perhaps an emotion, sorrow or despair. A 
'cure' achieved by bathing in the waters at a Saint's 
Shrine may signify for a religious person a miracle, the 


kindly personal intervention of God in natural events; 
for some psychologist, it may signify a striking example 
of the efficacy of the 'subconscious* in controlling bodily 
states; for a physiologist, the complex reactions between 
the chemical constituents of an external solution and the 
chemical constituents of the human body. A gun may 
be a suitable wall decoration for a retired sportsman, 
a weapon for a soldier, or a new kind of toy for a small 
child. When a scientist is endeavoring to prove a favorite 
hypothesis, he is very likely to fail to associate those 
meanings which might tend to discredit it. 

(2) Structural association. The analysis of the type 
of association operating in any conscious situation is 
evidently of great importance in understanding the mean- 
ings which are signified. But it must be further remarked 
that our primary interest is not in the psychological basis 
of association, not in, that is to say, the hidden causes 
that are efficacious in conditioning our interpretations. 
Or rather, let us say, we are interested in these causes 
only so that we may bring them to light, become actively 
conscious of them, become critical toward them, because 
then we are able, to some extent at least, to control them. 
Attainment of this control is the object of the critical and 
conscious structures of mathematics, logic, and science. 
On the basis of * automatic' and 'unconscious' association 
we come to expect that when we turn the switch the room 
will be illuminated. This expectation may in certain 
eventualities be disappointed: we may turn the switch 
and nothing else may happen. Such an outcome will 
momentarily shock 'common sense/ but we shall quickly 
fit it into a hypothetical structure and no longer find 
it anomalous, for this structure will take account of the 
fact that the connection between turning the switch and 
illumination, though usual enough to be firmly relied 
on, is not at all necessary. For, in accepting the hypo- 


thetical structure, we accept the assumption that some 
cause, discovered or undiscovered perhaps a burnt out 
fuse or a broken filament will account for the unex- 
pected outcome. The aim of the structures of mathe- 
matics, logic, and science is to estimate the validity of the 
types of relatedness that are encountered in experience. 
It should be clear that if the automatic associations were 
not first operating, we should never formulate the con- 
scious structures. We should never reach the idea of 
logically and mathematically necessary relations unless 
they were suggested and assured by the general character 
of experience; but once we have reached them they in 
their turn are seen to be definitive of experience, and we 
interpret the meanings of any situation in their light. 

Certain of these remarks about association may be 
rephrased in terms of the sign-meaning relationship as 

(i) Anything may, as the context changes, be either a 
sign that signifies, or a meaning that is signified. For 
instance: the word 'chair' as I write it is a sign signifying 
to me the chair in which I am sitting. But in a new 
context which includes the wish for 'physical' analysis, 
the chair I am sitting in is a sign signifying a more ab- 
stractly analyzed notion of a certain 'physical object/ 
with certain properties such as hardness, color, weight, 
and spatial relations; this preliminary notion of a physical 
object, in a still more complex context, becomes itself a 
sign signifying as meaning an aggregate of very small 
particles possessed only of a few occult properties such as 
mass and impenetrability arranged in a certain spatial 
and temporal order and acted upon by certain forces; 
and this too may become a sign signifying certain quantum 
transitions functioning according to very complex mathe- 
matical equations in a spatio-temporal continuum. 


Again : the name Austin is a sign signifying to me a certain 
person, a friend of mine (the meaning) ; but the notion 
of the friend may now become a sign signifying a certain 
evening spent in his company; and the notion of that 
evening may become a sign signifying another person 
whom I happened to meet during it; and the memory 
of this second person may become a sign signifying the 
second person's name, Arthur. 

(2) The sign-meaning relationship is reversible, when 
certain shifts in context occur. The word 'tree* signifies 
a certain object in the natural world that I am acquainted 
with; but the sight of an actual tree might in turn signify 
the word. To a behaviorist, a conscious experience of 
pain might signify certain internal and external bodily 
movements; but if we were to observe similar bodily 
movements in another person, they in their turn would 
signify that other person's conscious experience of pain. 

(3) In considering meanings, three aspects may be dis- 

(i) Cognitive: the meanings signified, for example, by 
a restaurant menu, a guide-book, scientific laws and 
experiments, stock quotations. The essential character- 
istic of cognitive meanings is, as we shall see more fully 
in the next chapter, that they can be significantly de- 
clared true or false. These meanings may also be called 
propositional. In their communicative aspect they may 
be thought of as conveying information. 

(ii) Emotive: the meanings signified by most religious 
ritual, much poetry, the observation of pain in a conscious 
being, such statements as "I love you," "The damned 
fool!" etc., are primarily emotive in character. 

(iii) Directive: the meanings signified by a red stop 
light, a^ailway signal, a shout of "Look out!" a sign, 
"Dangerous Curve Ahead," etc., are primarily directive: 
they prompt to action. 


Of course each of these three enters into all meanings. 
The point is one of emphasis. "Look out!" may on 
analysis be seen to convey the information that a car is 
rapidly approaching; but a pedestrian whose attention 
is on this rather than on the directive aspect (including 
the act of jumping back) may end in the hospital. A 
poem may give information about a sunflower or a land- 
scape; but people who try to learn about sunflowers and 
landscapes from poems soon give up poetry. A stock 
circular may tell something about an oil field; but its 
primary meaning is directive to get customers to buy 
stock as purchasers of the stock may afterwards dis- 
cover, to their sorrow. "I love you" undoubtedly gives 
information; but a suitor who puts much faith in the 
apparent information it gives may later find himself 
married to a most unsuitable wife. 

The profound importance of recognizing this threefold 
division is due to the fact that almost everyone confuses 
these three kinds of meaning. This has already been 
pointed out in the examples listed in the preceding para- 
graph. But these are relatively trivial. In one way or 
another, the confusion is a chief cause lying back of the 
failure to appreciate poetry, the alleged opposition be- 
tween religion and science, the misuse of propaganda in 
wartime. Propaganda seems to be giving information, 
but actually its meanings are almost entirely emotive 
and directive. There is a tendency to recognize this at 
the present day, but the recognition brings in another 
falsification: it is said that this emotive and directive 
aspect is evil, and that we should consider war only in 
the light of the 'facts' that is, of the information in- 
volved. But it is surely permissible to believe that it is at 
least as good for a nation to go to war to sustain certain 
emotional attitudes as to recover debts or get land. The 
critical attitude insists merely that one should know which 


kind of end one is fighting for. This is allied to the mis- 
take of those philosophers who believe that all meanings 
can be reduced to cognitive ones that can be treated in 
logical propositions. For certain purposes it is undoubt- 
edly true that only the cognitive aspects of meaning should 
be considered (in science, for example), but that does not 
mean that the emotive and directive aspects are any the 
less real ' or valuable. 

We shall return to these distinctions when discussing 
words in the next chapter. 

(4) The same sign may have different meanings for 
different persons, or for the same person at different 
times. This has already been made clear in treating 
'the importance of the context.' As a further example, 
we may consider the meaning of the moon to an astrono- 
mer and to a lover; or the sight of food to a man hungry 
and the same man just fed. But we may make an even 
more general statement: that signs will, in all proba- 
bility, never have exactly the same meanings for different 
people or for the same person at different times. For two 
astronomers, the moon may have as a sign meanings very 
closely allied, but their associations will not be in all 
respects identical, simply because they are two different 
persons; the sight of the food to a man hungry today and 
the same man hungry tomorrow will have meanings 
somewhat changed simply by the intervening time, during 
which new associations have been built up. 

(5) Different signs may 'mean the same thing/ A red 
traffic light, a policeman's raised hand, the letters 
'S-T-O-P' on a signpost may all mean to the motorist 
stop. Though, as we may readily see from (4), there 
will be only a relative sameness that is, only certain 
aspects will be the same: if the motorist had just com- 
mitted a traffic violation some of the meanings would 
be changed from those attached ordinarily to these signs; 


if the motorist were a communist the red light would 
signify meanings he would not share with a motorist who 
was an electrician. 


There is an ambiguity in the use of the word 'idea* 
which has already been suggested (in the discussion of the 
two meanings of c thinking/ and of structural association), 
but which, because of its importance, we shall approach 
once again, more explicitly. 

(i) In one use of the word 'idea' a mental event is 
referred to. It (say our idea of a tree which we are not at 
present observing) can be analyzed psychologically as a 
compound of: a remembered visual awareness of a tree; 
a vague emotion; a tendency to do something; a tendency 
to say the word c tree'; the remembered sound of the word 
'tree'; etc. Or an indirectly related analysis can be 
carried on physiologically (behavioristically), and the 
idea can be considered a compound of certain physical 
events occurring: in the optical centers of the brain (the 
remembered visual awareness) ; in the viscera (the vague 
emotion); in certain muscles (tendency to do); in the 
larynx (tendency to say); in the auditory centers (re- 
membered sound) ; etc. 

Dissociations of this kind may help to clarify our notions 
of the thinking process. But it should be noted that we 
need not be and almost never are conscious of these 
ingredients of an idea as ingredients. We discover them 
only after an ex post facto abstract analysis. Without 
them the idea would be different, just as without salt 
cake would be different. But we don't taste the salt in 
the cake. Cake is not simply a sum of salt, flour, milk, 
eggs, butter, and sugar (though without these things it 


would not be): it is also cake. Nor is an idea simply a 
sum of its psychological or physiological ingredients. In 
fact, we can never analyze an idea as it actually occurs 
in experience, but only afterwards, when it is isolated 
and treated (by other ideas) as a meaning. For this 
reason, these analyses of the psychological or physio- 
logical basis of ideas are likely to be misleading, particu- 
larly because the words used in them have many irrelevant 
and confusing associations of their own. 

We are using 'idea' in this sense, as a 'mental event/ 
when we say "a succession of ideas," or "His ideas are his 
own property," or "His ideas come slowly." We may 
note further about these 'mental events' that they are 
continuously changing and never repeated. My present 
idea of a tree is a different mental event from my idea of 
a tree two minutes ago. My ideas succeed themselves 
at all sorts of speeds in every direction, with constantly 
varying emotional accompaniments and overtones. 

(2) But the word 'idea* is also used to refer to a mean- 
ing, as when we say for instance, "His ideas are logical." 
The dangers hidden in a confusion between these two uses 
of the word 'idea' ('idea as mental event' and 'idea as 
meaning') are brought sharply to focus in some of the 
philosophic doctrines of 'idealism.' These start out by 
saying (or unconsciously assuming) that "All we know 
are ideas." If 'ideas' is used broadly enough to cover 
both uses this is in a sense true though it is not a very 
important thing to say, since it amounts to "All we know 
is what we know." But a little later the doctrine, for- 
getting the original broad use of 'idea,' reasons as if the 
statement that "All we know are mental events" has 
been established. This latter statement is certainly not 
true; and the chief reason why some philosophers think 
that it is true seems to rest on this ambiguity in the use 
of the word 'idea.' The differences in the two uses of 


'idea' is brought out by considerations such as the 

(i) We can never do more than guess (more or less 
adequately) a person's 'ideas' in the first sense. Just 
what mental events are occurring within another person's 
experience is not capable of direct investigation. On 
the other hand, we can often verify a person's 'ideas' in 
the second sense: he means a house or a tree or a plan of 
action. If someone telephones and asks me to lend him 
a volume of Shakespeare I shall never know exactly what 
mental events, thoughts, emotions, feelings lie back of 
the request. But that I have understood his meaning will 
be demonstrated if I turn over to him the right book. 

(ii) Mental events, as we have seen, change continu- 
ously. Meanings can be relatively static; they need not 
change in the same way nor anything like so rapidly. 
When we are ' thinking about making money' our thinking 
changes its shape in every conceivable manner, but there 
remains a fairly stable reference: we are thinking about 
making money > not about committing mayhem. Thinking 
about 'that house' may bring in innumerably compli- 
cated associations; but the meaning 'that house' keeps 
at least relatively constant. 

(iii) So far as we can judge (but see (i) above) the mental 
events called ' thinking about that house' vary from person 
to person. There are different degrees of visual and 
auditory imagery, kinesthetic, laryngeal, visceral feel- 
ings. But the meaning 'that house' can be sufficiently 
the same for two people, as will be demonstrated by their 
ability for example to find their way to it after being told 
its location. 

(iv) Analysis in terms of mental events is conspicuously 
inadequate in the case of such meanings as 'infinity/ 
'eternity,' 'very high numbers,' 'divinity,' 'justice/ etc. 
Recognizing this inadequacy leads some people to con- 


elude that these notions have no meaning; but this is 
only another way of saying that they have a special kind 
of meaning. They certainly have some kind of meaning, 
and criticism should attempt to discover just what it is, 
and how it is distinguished from 'concrete' and 'per- 
ceptual' meanings. When we demonstrate a geometrical 
theorem about any triangle, it is clear that we can never 
have a mental 'image' of 'any triangle,' yet 'any triangle' 
is referred to by the proof. But this inadequacy extends 
even to our notions of concrete 'things/ We 'mean' a 
complete person or desk or tennis ball, yet the analysis 
of mental events does not show adequately anything 
corresponding to such meanings. 


The whole of the experience of any one person is dif- 
ferent from that of every other person; that difference 
makes him one person rather than another. Certain as- 
pects of experience, however, are shared as signs signi- 
fying more or less similar meanings though how much 
of the meaning in any given case will be similar is difficult 
if not impossible to tell. The red traffic light is turned 
on and all the motorists on the street stop their cars. 
In spite of all the individual and private meanings con- 
nected with their various experiences, the fact that they 
have all shared at least some elements of the experience 
of seeing a red light and that that has acted as a sign 
signifying meanings at least in some respects similar is 
evidenced by their all stopping. 

Communication is possible because certain aspects of 
experience can be shared as signs. Some one in a theater 
shouts, "Fire!" and the whole audience rushes toward the 
exits. The sound of the word has become a sign signifying 
to each of the audience a complex experience, similar 


enough for each so that he acts in more or less the same 
way as his neighbors. A sign, such as the word 'fire/ 
which communicates meanings is called a symbol. A group 
of symbols organized to communicate meanings on a 
complex scale is called a 'language' 

From one point of view all signs communicate meanings 
within the experience of a single person they are linking 
together past, present, and future meanings. But when 
we speak of a symbol we refer only to those signs which 
communicate (or may communicate) meanings from one 
person to another. The development of signs into sym- 
bols goes on for the most part quite automatically. A 
baby has an experience of what it will later know as a 
'dog/ This first experience includes many potentially 
separable elements such as certain visual awarenesses, 
certain smells, certain tactual sensations, auditory sensa- 
tions (the bark), a bite on the hand accompanied with 
pain and emotions of fear, etc. Later on any one of these 
elements may become a sign signifying all the rest; and 
the sight of the dog makes the baby keep its hands out 
of reach; or the bark alone may make the baby tremble 
with the fear that is part of the total experience signified 
by the bark acting as sign. Still later an imitation of the 
bark by an elder brother may become a sign signifying 
the total experience and may cause the same emotional 
response; the imitation of the bark has become a symbol. 
Such 'natural symbols' presuppose, clearly, shared ex- 
periences among those for whom they are effective. 

Very few symbol situations are as simple as this one. 
The varied trains of associations (in the history of the 
individual or of mankind) quickly become too complex 
for analysis, and we have symbols so distantly related to 
what they mean that they may be called conventional. 
Such, for example, is the sound of the word 'dog* or the 
sight of the letters 'd-o-g' on a page, which may serve 


as conventional symbols signifying the whole complex 
dog-experience. Of course this does not mean that we 
shall have the whole meaning 'in mind* whenever we use 
the word ' dog' the whole meaning is, rather, potentially 
signified by the conventional symbol. And the remarkable 
result is that when we have developed a facility for handling 
conventional symbols we can reach conclusions about the 
total meanings they stand for, even though throughout the 
whole process our attention has been fastened only on 
the symbols themselves. Indeed this, as we have seen, 
is what happens whenever we 'reason anything out,' or 
apply the results of mathematical calculation to a prac- 
tical problem, as in the case of the ship's cargo (p. 31). 
Moreover it should be noticed that, though we can some- 
times trace the development of conventional symbols 
from natural symbols onomatopoeic words such as 
'buzz' and 'grunt,' and many ordinary gestures would be 
examples the sign-meaning relationship is often quite 
arbitrary. In developed stages of languages (in the 
individual sciences and in mathematics, for instance) 
symbols may be selected for no other reason than that the 
situation calls for the conventional representation of a 
newly isolated meaning, as in the case of many of the 
words added to physics during this century. It should be 
remembered that everything which has been said about 
signs will apply also to symbols; and particularly that 
the meaning of the symbol is variable and depends on the 
whole context in which it appears. For many purposes 
of exact reasoning it is important, as we shall see, that the 
meaning of a symbol shall remain fixed throughout the 
reasoning process; but this is an ideal impossible of attain- 
ment. It is most nearly approached in mathematics, 
though there only at the expense of a degree of abstraction 
that makes questionable the application of mathematical 
reasoning to any other than mathematical experience. 


The languages formed by a related group of symbols are 
not necessarily verbal. In conversation often much more 
is communicated by gestures, changes of facial expression, 
slight movements, than by the words that are used. A 
clasp of the hand may communicate an emotion far better 
than a dozen speeches. And each of the fine arts commu- 
nicates unique (in this case, primarily reflexive) meanings 
through its own symbols. Mathematics has a highly 
individualized symbol system, communicating its own 
proper (mathematical) meanings. Not to recognize these 
differences in languages and the qualitative uniqueness 
of the meanings each language is able to communicate is 
to isolate oneself from many of the possibilities of ex- 

It is with words verbal language however, that 
we are to be chiefly concerned. And, for Western man- 
kind at any rate, words have an advantage over all other 
symbols by their greater flexibility and comprehensive- 
ness: they can refer to more kinds of meanings than any 
other symbols we have. Our civilization, our thoughts, 
our feelings, our actions, are dependent on words to such 
an extent that words seem at times our most essential 
possession. But unfortunately the dangers in the misuse 
of words increase as fast as or faster than the advantages 
in using them correctly. 



The meanings of all words are variable. We may, if 
we wish, imagine words standing for clear, definite, and 
precise meanings that can be exactly communicated; but 
we can never be sure we have found them. Reality is 
infinitely diverse, and cannot be thus delimited. We 
know this already: for a word, taken as a sound or as a 
pattern of black lines on a page, is a sign whose meaning, 
in the broadest sense, includes everything associated with 
it. These associations will never be in all respects identi- 
cal for two persons, simply because they are two different 
persons; nor for the same person at two different times, 
simply because of what has happened during the time 

But words are not merely accidental signs; they are 
symbols, and we have defined symbols as signs which 
communicate. That part of the meaning of a sign which 
is or can be communicated or shared is objective; and so 
far as it is objective, may be treated apart from the 
idiosyncracies of individual associations. This use of 'ob- 
jective' must be carefully distinguished from the way 
'objective* is ordinarily used. When people speak of 
'objective reality' at the present time they are usually 
referring to the 'physical world/ the meanings studied 
by the natural sciences particularly by physics: my 
thoughts and feelings and desires are 'subjective'; that 
chair and tree, or at least the electrons and quantum 
transitions that make them up, are 'objective.' The word 



is to be used in a sense which is, theoretically at least, much 
wider: any meanings are objective so Jar as they can be 
shared. We may note at once two characteristics of 
objectivity that have been implicit in the preceding 
discussion : 

(1) That some meanings are in some way objective is 
tacitly assumed by all conversation, argument, or by any 
social endeavor such as business, politics, games, or any 
form of cooperation. We shall accept this assumption 
without any attempt to establish its validity. Just what 
meanings or aspects of meanings are objective is, how- 
ever, quite another question, one far too complex for 
adequate treatment in an elementary study. We may 
say, therefore, that the meaning of a symbol or set of 
symbols is objective by definition; but in any given case 
we shall not hope to be entirely clear about what the 
objective meaning is. 

(2) Objectivity is at least partly a matter of degree. 
Here again we must avoid associations from the ordinary 
use of ' objectivity/ which explains objectivity in terms 
of a physical world existing apart from experience, which 
we all know. That we all share somehow some kind of a 
common reality no one can seriously and consistently 
doubt; but it is quite possibly ineffable, and in any case 
we should not prejudice our judgment about its nature. 
Using objectivity as herein defined, the physical world's 
objectivity is clearly variable: the baby, a painter, a 
physicist, an astronomer, a Bushman, a stockbroker, a 
beetle, an eagle, an amoeba obviously do not share the 
same objective physical meanings. The objectivity of 
other kinds of meaning likewise varies. The growth of 
friendship or love from casual acquaintance strikingly il- 
lustrates one kind of developing objectivity: more and 
more meanings are shared, and can be communicated, 
often, by fewer and fewer symbols. Perhaps the most 


dramatic examples of developed objectivity are to be 
found in the great religions, in which the accumulated 
experience of millions of individuals and hundreds of 
generations has become objectified not only within the 
lives of their members, but outwardly through prayers, 
ritual, religious symbols of all kinds, and elaborate dogma. 

The degree of objectivity depends on what was called in 
the last chapter 'structural association/ The meanings 
of any realm of discourse fit into some sort of structure, 
exact or inexact, readily or with difficulty communicable; 
and by understanding the realm of discourse within which 
a symbol is being employed, we are better able to under- 
stand that symbol's objective meaning through its rela- 
tions to the other meanings of the realm in question 
indeed, these relations in a sense are its meaning. Of 
course we need not be conscious of the realm of discourse 
in which the symbol appears: these structures have been 
built up through the history of mankind, and we absorb 
them from our education and our environment in general. 
The realm of discourse in which we ordinarily speak, 
write, and act is the common-sense world. Its structure is 
loose and incoherent, but it is sufficient to enable symbols 
to become conventional enough for usual purposes. Take, 
for instance, the three words 'scalds/ 'guts/ 'plumber/ 
These will have private associations for everyone, par- 
ticularly for those who have been scalded or been operated 
on for appendicitis or kept house, but they have also 
common, accepted, objective meanings for all users: suf- 
ficiently objective so that we should know where to look 
in the telephone book if a pipe burst or what to tell the 
doctor if the cook had had an accident. The symbols are 
to this extent logical: that apart from the manifold and 
largely accidental meanings they have for different persons 
and in different circumstances, they signify an invariant 


residuum of meaning. They have become, in a sense, 

The more rigid and coherent the structure of a realm 
of discourse, the more invariant and conventional are the 
meanings of the symbols it employs. This is exactly 
what happens in each of the special sciences. In ordinary 
speech 'resistance/ 'elasticity/ 'work* are symbols with 
a certain degree of objectivity but also signs with all kinds 
of loose and individual meanings; in mechanics the ob- 
jectivity is far more precise, and a physicist will know 
with a fair degree of certainty the meaning of a brother 
physicist who uses them. The meanings symbolized in 
mathematics are, from this point of view, the most objec- 
tive of all. They are objective not because of the number 
of people who share them, but because those who do share 
them are all absolutely agreed what their meaning is so 
long as if is a question of mathematical meaning alone. 
That is, no mathematician would conceivably disagree 
that 2 plus 3 equalled 5 ; though he might easily disagree 
on how mathematical meanings should be applied to other 
meanings (whether, for instance, the equations of relativity 
physics are applicable to certain optical phenomena). 
Two mathematicians might have very different intel- 
lectual and emotional associations connected with the 
binomial theorem; the external context in which the 
binomial theorem was referred to might change im- 
measurably a mathematician might have indigestion 
or be in Chicago or live in a cellar or have a temperature 
of io6; but all of these would be irrelevant to the math- 
ematical meaning of the binomial theorem, which would 
remain invariant. 

The logical use of language finds its ideal in just this: 
the formation of a set of symbols of such a nature that, 
granted the realm of discourse in question, each symbol 
will adequately communicate an invariant ^ncj cpnven- 


tional meaning no matter what the external context. 
Mathematics may be thought to have approximated this 
ideal. But it does so only by handling meanings so ab- 
stract that its realm of discourse is severely limited. There 
is some reason to believe that such limitation must take 
place as language becomes more logical. 1 

The attainment of objectivity may, however, take place 
in another manner, by what we shall here call the poetic 
use of language. Poetry (the term here includes much 
more than what would be printed or recited as 'poetry') 
takes words ordinarily having conventional objective 
meanings, and by forcing them into a new and independent 
structure objectifies fresh meanings. For instance, when 
Flamineo, in the last act of Webster's The White Devil, 
pretends to be shot, he cries: 

O I smell soote. 

Most stinking soote, the chimneis a-fire, 
My liver's purboil'd like scotch holly-bread; 
There's a plumber laying pipes in my guts, it scalds; 
Wilt thou out-live mee? 

'Plumber/ 'guts/ 'scalds' are apparently the same words 
that we have just noticed; but they are different symbols: 
they are referring to more than the meanings that they 
would have in ordinary discourse. They are metaphors 
in that they forcibly connect up meanings not linked 
together in the realms of discourse that govern our 
familiar experience. All words are partly metaphorical, 
since their meanings join qualities, properties, relations, 
etc. that can be separated by analysis; but we call them 
metaphors only when their synthesis of meanings is fresh 
and unusual. The history of words shows how metaphors 
gradually stiffen into conventional meanings any page 

1 In this connection it is interesting to compare the meanings of certain 
logical relations (e.g. 'implication') in, for instance, Whitehead and Russell's 
Principia Mathtmatica, with their more usual meanings. 


of the Oxford Dictionary provides illustrations; but most 
words in most uses are dead metaphors. It is the business 
of poetry to objectify new meanings 

At the violet hour, when the eyes and back 

Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits 

Like a taxi throbbing waiting, 

I Teresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives, 

Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see 

At the violet hour. . . .* 

Here the most commonplace words, through various poetic 
maneuvers, have been fitted into a structure that makes 
them new and startling symbols. 

We shall return to the poetic use of language in Chapter 
XII, and go on now with the logical use of language. 
Whatever may be our final judgment of their relative 
values, the poetic use is ordinarily not fitted to argument, 
reasoning, or many 'practical' ends because the objectifi- 
cation it achieves holds only for the particular poem be- 
fore us. We must have an instrument whose orderliness, 
if humbler, is on a wider scale. 


The logical use of language takes as its units of meaning 
either terms (in traditional logic) or propositions (in modern 
logic). In the first case we consider terms' as units which 
can be built up into propositions; in the second, proposi- 
tions as units which can be split up into terms. Super- 
ficially it would seem to be indifferent which we chose, 
though from some points of view it is not; at any rate 
we shall avoid the argument, and begin with a discussion 
of terms. 

A term is an invariant meaning, considered apart from 
any assertion or denial made about it, established by con- 

1 T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land. 


vention as belonging to some word or group of words or 
technical symbol derived from words. Most of what is 
involved by this will be clear from the preceding section. 
Logical language tries to get rid of the vagueness neces- 
sarily attached to our ordinary use of words, not by 
actually dispelling all private associations (which is im- 
possible) nor by fixing the meaning freshly each time 
(as poetry does), but by definition: i.e., by legislating a 
distinction between those meanings of a word which shall 
logically belong to it in each of its uses, and all other 
meanings which, though they will always be turning up, 
are by the definition declared not part of the word's 
logi'cal meaning. Meanings thus established are called 

The so-called Law of Identity, 'a is a* ignoring the 
metaphysical implications that some schools of philoso- 
phers attach to it may be regarded as an abbreviated 
way of summing up the first postulate of a logic which sets 
out to reduce meanings to relations between terms. It 
may then be restated: "A term is self-identical"; or, 
"Any term (for which a or some other written or spoken 
symbol may stand) should be kept invariant." This is a 
theoretic ideal of logical discourse. Though it is obviously 
both impossible and unnecessary to keep a term self- 
identical throughout all uses of it (it would be more 
correct to say, "Obviously we can't be sure that we are 
dealing with the same term," since in theory at least, the 
term is invariant), it is very important to keep our terms 
as invariant as we can throughout the course of a discus- 
sion that intends to be logical. 

(i) A term is not a word, and must be distinguished 
from words: words are symbols which stand for terms. 
For logical purposes dog> chien> Hund y and even some such 
group of words as "a domesticated four-legged animal 
that barks and is reputed to be friend to man" stand all 


four for the same term: that is, in most contexts, to a 
person acquainted with English, French, and German, the 
same objective meaning would be communicated. More- 
over, one word may be many terms, as in the case of 'law' 
(legal, physical, moral), 'board* (of directors, and lodg- 
ing, lumber, table) and most other words: in any dis- 
cussion it would have to be made clear which of these 
references was being made. 

(2) A term is not an idea 'in the mind/ not a * mental 
event/ This distinction was made clear in the last 
chapter. A term is the meaning-aspect of an idea when 
it has been made definite enough to be conventionally 
symbolized by a word or other recognizable formula. An 
idea that has thus been made logical is called a concept^ 
and a term is therefore the meaning-aspect of a concept. 

(3) 'Denotation and connotation. There is a distinction 
made in logic between the denotation and the connotation 
of a term. It is a distinction fairly clear on the surface, 
but obscure if too much analyzed. Each term applies to a 
certain number of particulars: its range of application is 
its denotation. But each term also specifies (implies) 
certain qualities, properties, etc., about each of the par- 
ticulars to which it applies (whereby its range is limited to 
those particulars rather than to others); and what it 
specifies or implies is its connotation. Thus: The term 
'man' applies to each man that was, is, or will be, and this 
is its denotative aspect; and the term 'man' specifies a 
certain group of meanings (such as being an animal, two- 
legged, rational, etc.), and this specification is its con- 
notative aspect. In other words a term may be regarded 
both as denoting a class of things (or we had better say, 
of tf's, since they need not of course be physical) and as 
connoting certain qualities or properties. There is evi- 
dently a very intimate relation between the denotative 
and connotative aspects of a term, for by virtue of the 


qualities that are specified as belonging to it, the possible 
#'s to which it can refer are limited. 

It is by virtue of these limitations, which the specified 
meanings of a term impose on its range of application, 
that we can distinguish between what is and what is not a 
member of any given class. Thus, 'vehicle' means "that 
in or on which any person or thing may be carried, esp. on 
land" (Webster's Dictionary), and consequently denotes a 
very large number and variety of A;'S indifferently. But 
'bicycle/ since it is a special kind of vehicle, connotes all 
the qualities connoted by 'vehicle' and more besides: it 
means a vehicle with also the special properties of having 
two wheels one behind the other and of being propelled 
by revolving pedals. These additional connotations make 
the denotation of 'bicycle' more limited than the denota- 
tion of 'vehicle,' for whereas all #'s that are bicycles are 
also vehicles, we can point to many #'s that are vehicles 
but, lacking the additional characteristics, not bicycles. 
In general, when two terms a and b are related in such a 
way that a connotes all that b connotes and more besides, 
a is subsumed under b: that is, the class of #'s that a 
denotes is included within the class of -v's that b denotes. 
For even if in the actual world there happen to be no a-'s 
that are ' and at the same time not ^,' still so far as 
additional meaningful characteristics have been ascribed 
to a y it is logically possible that some of the #'s which are 
b should lack those additional characteristics; logically 
possible, therefore, that there should be #'s which are b 
but not a* In this strictly logical sense, then, it is a 
characteristic of terms which are subsumptively related 
that their connotation and denotation vary inversely 
(though not, of course, in any mathematical ratio). This 
leads to the somewhat paradoxical corollary that accord- 
ing to the specificity of its connotation a class may have 
(i) many members ('man'), (ii) a single member ('the 


twenty-eighth President of the United States'), (iii) no mem- 
bers at all with respect to the realm of discourse to which 
it belongs ('griffon/ with respect to the physical world; 
'round square' with respect to the realm of mathematical 
possibility), or (iv) all possible members that have mean- 
ing for a given realm of discourse ('odd or even numbers' 
with respect to the system of rational integers). A class 
like (iii) is called a null class; a class like (iv), a universal 

It should be noted that this technical way in which 
logic uses the words 'denotation' and 'connotation' is 
very different from their more familiar use. In everyday 
speech, the denotation of a word is its primary (or some- 
times its publicly accepted) meaning; the connotation, 
its secondary meaning (or sometimes its private associa- 
tions) for this or that person. This latter distinction holds 
for words, not for terms; and is valid, therefore, outside of 
the abstract realm of discourse that we have defined logic 
to be. 


Strictly speaking, the definition of terms other than 
those employed within logic itself is an application rather 
than a part of logic. Nevertheless, since in this book we 
are not dealing with logic in vacua, it seems natural to 
take up definition at this point. If our actual terms were 
like the ideal term a we should not need to worry about 
definition. But they are not; and the effort of definition 
is to decide as exactly as possible what objective meaning 
will be attached to some definiendum (a word or the equiv- 
alent of a word) either always or throughout some dis- 
cussion. It is sometimes said that definition seeks to 
determine the meaning of a word. This is nonsense, for 
the meaning of a word is whatever it happens to be. 
Definition seeks rather to decide what we shall accept the 


meaning as being; that is to say, it marks off as clearly as 
possible the term which the definiendum is declared to 

(1) Verbal definition. The chief function of verbal 
definition is to establish different signs which will be 
accepted as the same symbol. This is how we learn a 
foreign language: 'dog' is 'chien.' This, however, does 
not help to make clear the objective meaning of a symbol 
since it assumes that the meaning is known already. It 
nevertheless is very important. Not only do we learn 
foreign languages by it, but a change in signs may make 
symbols much easier to handle, as when the Arabic system 
of handling numbers was substituted for the Roman. 

This also is a very dangerous method of definition, 
because the sign substitution may wrongly be supposed to 
clarify terms. Thus: We give a verbal definition of * soul' 
"the soul is a psychic entity" and then demonstrate 
the immortality of the soul on the grounds of the non- 
destructibility of psychic entities. Or: We verbally 
define the 'good' as 'that which we desire/ and then 
demonstrate that nothing is good except what people 
happen at any given time to desire. 

It may be stated as a rule that a verbal definition is 
neither true nor false, and no conclusions may be drawn 
from it. It is a device of expository convenience. 

(2) Denotative or illustrative definition. For many 
practical purposes this is the best and it is probably also 
the most usual method of definition. It is, as we have 
seen, the way we learn our terms through the method 
of 'pointing at* or 'giving examples/ "What is a horse ?" 
"That's a horse, and that's a horse, and that's a horse, but 
that's a mule." "What is gravity?" "Gravity is what 
makes the apples fall in autumn and the elevator drop to 
the bottom of the shaft when the cable breaks." "What 
is justice?" "Justice is when you pay your debts and 


don't try to cheat people and don't tell lies about your 
competitors and don't think people are guilty of crimes 
just because their politics and religion are different from 
yours." It may be remarked that when discussing such 
terms as justice, art, and beauty, clarity is often more likely 
to be gained in this way than through abstract formalities 

Nevertheless, for logical purposes there are serious 
objections to this method of definition. In the first place 
it is likely to be too arbitrary and disordered, as we can 
notice in for instance a business man's notion of what 
acts are just. But further, the ability to point to many 
objects as so-and-so (horses) seems to imply somehow a 
logically (not of course psychologically) prior principle 
in accordance with which the pointing is done. Or at 
least if such a principle were made articulate it would 
help to fit the meaning of the term into a coherent struc- 
ture. Socrates was fond of pointing out this difficulty: 

Soc. ... By the gods, Meno, be generous, and tell me 
what you say that virtue is; for I shall be truly delighted to 
find that I have been mistaken, and that you and Gorgias do 
really have this knowledge; although I have been just saying 
that I have never found anybody who had. 

Meno. There will be no difficulty, Socrates, in answering 
your question. Let us take first the virtue of a man he should 
know how to administer the state, and in the administration of it 
to benefit his friends and harm his enemies, he must also be 
careful not to suffer himself. A woman's virtue, if you wish to 
know about that, may also be easily described: her duty is to 
order her house, and keep what is indoors, and obey her husband. 
Every age, every condition of life, young or old, male or female, 
bond or free, has a different virtue: there are virtues numberless, 
and no lack of definitions of them; for virtue is relative to the 
actions and ages of each of us in all that we do. And the same 
may be said of vice, Socrates. 

Soc. How fortunate I am, Meno! When I ask you for one 


virtue, you present me with a swarm of them, which are in 
your keeping. Suppose that I carry on the figure of the swarm, 
and ask of you, What is the nature of the bee? and you answer 
that there are many kinds of bees, and I reply: But do bees 
differ as bees, because there are many and different kinds of 
them; or are they not rather to be distinguished by some other 
quality, as for example beauty, size or shape? How would you 
answer me? 

Meno. I should answer that bees do not differ from one 
another, as bees. 

Soc. And if I went on to say: That is what I desire to know, 
Meno; tell me what is the quality in which they do not differ, 
but are all alike . . .* 

(3) Definition per genus et differentiam. (Also called 
connotative or Aristotelian definition.) What Socrates has 
asked Meno to give him, in short, is a definition that by 
fixing the logical connotation of the definiendum (in this 
case the word Virtue') will make its denotation less 
arbitrary than is likely to be the case when the definition 
is nothing more than pointing to one example after 
another. Such definition is made possible by the nature 
of the subsumptive relation. It consists in declaring 
(i) some relevant larger class under which the definiendum 
may be subsumed (the genus), and (ii) the additional 
characteristics which differentiate the definiendum from 
other members of the larger class (the differentia). Thus, 
a dog is a mammal; but it is differentiated from other 
mammals by being easily domesticated, four-legged, bark- 
ing, belonging to the family of digitigrade Carnivora, etc. 
Other rough examples of this method of definition 
would be: 

* Planet': astronomical body (genus) moving around 
the center of gravity of the solar system (differentia). 

'Trolley': public vehicle (G) run by electricity derived 
from an overhead wire (D). 

1 Plato, Meno, tr. Jowett, 7iD-7aC. 


Automobile': vehicle (G) propelled by a self-contained 
power unit (D) (it will be observed that this definition is 
really contained in the word 'automobile' itself). 

'Baby': human being (G) very young (D). 

Through definitions per genus et differ entiam we can give 
an objective order to the meanings of our terms. Many 
rules are given to aid in this method of definition such 
as that the differentia should give the 'essence' of the term 
to be defined, and that the principle of division (funda- 
mentum divisionis) of classification should be the same 
throughout the process of defining a set of terms but 
we need not go into them. The general purpose is clear. 
It should be noticed that when we define in this way it is 
assumed that the meaning of the genus and differentia 
by which we define is already known an assumption 
not made in denotative definition. 

(4) Quantitative and mathematical definition. Mathe- 
matics and modern science do not ordinarily make use of 
the subsumptive relation, and therefore do not ordinarily 
define per genus et dijfferentiam. Position in space, for 
example, is defined with reference to some system of 
coordinate axes; its 'definition' consists merely in a 
group of numbers expressing its relations along these 
axes. A rational number would not be defined by sub- 
sumption under some other number, but, if a definition 
were called for, as occupying a certain determinate 
position in the number series, or as the sum or quotient or 
product of other numbers. This method, which consists 
in the restriction of the possible connotations of a term 
to its mathematical properties, is one of the distinctive 
characteristics of modern science. Many terms are thus 
treated as aggregates of a certain number of arbitrarily 
chosen units: as when chemical compounds are studied 
quantitatively; or when the resistance of a coil of wire is 
determined as being so many 'ohms/ or a man (from 


certain points of view) so many 'grams/ or work so many 
'foot-pounds/ The importance of the shift in methods of 
defining from (3) to (4), from a hierarchy of classes to a 
system of mathematical relations, which was one aspect 
of the great cultural shift that occurred at the Renaissance, 
can hardly be exaggerated, for it involves a change in the 
whole way of viewing reality. This will be brought out 
indirectly in Chapter V, and more specifically in Chapters 
VII and VIII, in the discussion of science. 

Definition, then, sets out to establish what shall be the 
conventionally accepted objective meaning of a symbol. 
Definitions which are non-verbal and non-denotative do 
this by pointing out the relations of this meaning with 
other meanings, and for logical purposes, the totality of 
the relations is the meaning desired. Definition is thus 
'circular* by nature; we can avoid circularity in any single 
realm of discourse, as we have seen, by taking certain 
terms as undefined; but since realms of discourse are not 
absolute, in the long run they will be circular whatever 
we do. Aristotelian definition is suitable for logical pur- 
poses because (almost in spite of itself) it consists in just 
this study of the relations of meanings with each other. 
It is, however, limited because it tends to reduce all re- 
lations to subsumption, or the subject-predicate relation. 
By sufficient distortion this may be theoretically possible; 
but many terms are better defined through other relations. 

No definition is final; it is good and adequate if it 
emphasizes relations and distinctions sufficient to the 
matter in hand. For most people a telephone is sufficiently 
defined by a brief description of its appearance and func- 
tion; but the definition of an employee of the telephone 
company must be more exact and elaborate. A motorist 
does not need a better definition of gasoline than "a 
liquid made from petroleum that makes your car go and 


can be bought at filling stations"; but a chemist interested 
in developing new processes of refining has to have a more 
complex definition, which will include, for instance, the 
chemical formula. Neither is the 'right' or 'true* defini- 
tion; the word gasoline is two different symbols, one for 
the motorist and one for the chemist, and there are two 
different though related objective meanings. A 'chair* 
is a piece of furniture designed to be sat upon; and it is 
ridiculous for a physicist to tell me that it is really a 
bundle of electrons; for my purposes the word 'chair' is 
correctly defined as something to sit on; for certain of the 
physicist's purposes it is important that the word 'chair' 
be another symbol referring to another meaning (the 
electrons). These two meanings may very well be related; 
but we cannot conclude that one is right and the other 
wrong unless we understand the situation that is to be 
clarified by the definition: certainly on most occasions 
my definition rather than the physicist's is preferable. 

Logicians give certain rules characterizing valid defini- 
tions. It is not necessary to take these too seriously, but 
it will be useful to review briefly a few of them: 

(i) A definition should be based on important rather 
than on trivial or irrelevant characteristics. As we have 
seen, importance and relevance depend on the purpose of 
the definition; but they should not be judged too super- 
ficially. 'Man' might be defined as a mammal with 
relatively less hair or fur than other mammals, but there 
would be few occasions on which this distinction would 
be worth noting. 

(ii) A definition should not be narrower in application 
than what is being defined. Examples of the violation of 
this rule would be: "A politician is a member of Con- 
gress"; "Reality is physical." 

(iii) A definition should not be wider in application 
than what is being [defined. Examples of the violation 


of this rule would be: "A politician is a person interested 
in public affairs "; "Algebra is a science dealing with 
abstract relations." 

(iv) A definition should not contain the word (or words) 
to be defined, nor their mere verbal equivalents or op- 
posites. This rules out verbal definitions, as discussed 
above: "Physics is a science which studies physical 
phenomena"; "Life is the sum-total of the forces that 
resist death." 

(v) A definition should not be expressed in obscure or 
figurative language. This rule holds pretty well in logical 
discussions, though on other occasions there may be some- 
thing gained by a judiciously figurative use of language. 
At any rate it is manifestly dangerous to support argu- 
ments on such supposed definitions as: "Knowledge is 
power"; "God is our Father"; "The world is a machine." 

(vi) A definition should not be negative where it can be 
affirmative. Examples of the violation of this rule would 
be: "Mind is that which is immaterial"; "A point is 
that which has no parts and no magnitude." The reason 
for this rule is due to the fact that when we define say 
'baldness* as 'no hair/ from a theoretical logical stand- 
point 'no hair' can refer to anything at all except hair 
including having big teeth or two legs. But actually in such 
cases we always take for granted the more specific refer- 
ence; and particularly when a term is negative in meaning 
it may often be profitably defined negatively. This rule 
seems to be a special case of rule (iii) ; a negative definition 
is bad when its application as we understand it not 
simply its verbal application is too wide. 


The purpose of definition is to make our terms suffi- 
ciently clear: that is, to avoid ambiguity. In fact, many 


logicians state as a rule that no terms in an argument are 
to be used ambiguously. Unfortunately, due to the 
limitations of human nature, this is a rule that can never 
be followed. The difficulty is clearly recognized by 
Professor Ralph M. Eaton (in this passage ' equivocation ' 
means an ambiguous use of words) : 

Logicians have seldom given the attention to equivocation 
that it deserves. Its philosophical interest is profound. They 
have thought that it arises from the careless or intentional 
use of language in double senses, and from this alone. The 
name 'equivocation* is in fact more suited to the rhetorical 
than the logical aspect of these confused meanings. Confused 
meanings are not amenable to the principles of logic; yet it is 
impossible by the very nature of facts to avoid confusions of 
meaning; for the actual world is a place of twilight zones, of 
the passage of opposites into opposites, where the sharp dis- 
tinctions necessary to logic are blurred. Mr. A. N. Whitehead 
has remarked that as soon as we become perfectly clear ajbout 
what we mean, we can be sure that some very important point 
has been left out. Confusion of meaning does not arise alone 
from the misuse of words; this is one of its minor sources. It is 
forced upon us by reality itself; we can never be absolutely 
certain that a concrete truth has been caught in the net of our 
logic. 1 

Now from a theoretic point of view terms are never am- 
biguous, because they are by definition the communicated 
objective meaning of symbols. But whenever we leave 
the theoretic term 'a' and use some actual term, the 
chance of confusion is present. Ambiguity is therefore 
not strictly a logical but a verbal difficulty: it results 
because of the fact that we can never be sure just what 
meaning a given word is supposed to stand for. 

Ambiguity should be distinguished from vagueness. All 
words are more or less vague, but the vagueness may be 

1 General Logic, pp. 101-2. 


unimportant. For instance, if I am crossing a street and 
someone shouts 'Look out!' the shout is vague because 
it might be directing me to take any of a number of ac- 
tions. But ordinarily all that is necessary is that I pay 
a little extra attention to my movements. However, a 
situation might arise when I should have to make some one 
particular movement to avoid being hit to jump back- 
wards rather than forwards and the vagueness of 
'Look out!' would have become ambiguous, and the result 
of the ambiguity might put me in the hospital. Am- 
biguity arises when the communicated meanings of a word 
(or words) are not as clear as the situation demands. If 
someone asked, "What was he doing? " I might answer 
vaguely, "Holding something in his hand," and be correct 
enough; in a murder trial the verdict might depend on 
whether that 'something* had been a gun or a fountain 

Though we cannot avoid ambiguity completely, we 
can reduce it by careful definition, and by recognizing 
types of ambiguity that frequently appear. When rec- 
ognized, we can take measures to counteract them. The 
following examples of different types of ambiguity, though 
by no means exhaustive, will point out the leading dan- 

(i) Simple ambiguity, caused by the fact that one word 
is many symbols. " . . . but I have also observed certain 
laws established in nature by God . . ." 1 The ambiguity 
here rests on the use of the word 'law/ a confusion between 
a 'physical law* and the 'law of the land/ The law of the 
land is established and enforced by political authority; 
but, without very painstaking analysis, there is no reason 
to suppose that what we call 'physical laws' are 'es- 
tablished* in any usual sense by any one. The same 
ambiguity is found when we speak of 'obeying the law of 

1 Descartes, Discourse on Method. 


gravitation.' Puns are often examples of this type of 

(2) The confusion of 'relative' and 'absolute' terms. 
"The hypothesis of evolution is wrong because it is ad- 
mitted even by its supporters to be not absolutely proved; 
therefore let us accept the account of creation given in 
Genesis.' 9 This argument is ambiguous because in factual 
matters 'wrong* is a relative term expressing the degree 
of probability; considered solely from a factual point of 
view Genesis may be even more wrong. The same 
ambiguity would be found in arguing that the country as a 
whole is more prosperous now than thirty years ago be- 
cause the average salary is twice as high: perhaps the 
change in what money can buy has more than made up 
for the difference in amount of money. 

(3) The confusion of the collective use of a class word 
with its distributive use. This gives rise to the fallacies 
traditionally called: (i) The Fallacy of Composition. 
"Every member of the team is a star player, and therefore 
it is a star team." "Each person's good is his own happi- 
ness; therefore the good of society as a whole is the great- 
est happiness of the greatest number"; (ii) The Fallacy of 
Division. "The country has accepted Prohibition, which 
means that most people in the country have accepted it." 
"Water is H 2 O." 

(4) The acceptance, because of the deceptive verbal 
form, of a term in a less modified form than is intended. 
"Never tell a lie." But there are some occasions, as 
doctors or guests at a dull party realize, when this general- 
ity does not apply nor, indeed, is it meant to. Almost 
all general statements, maxims, 'saws' are subject to this 
ambiguity if they are taken 'literally.' 

(5) The confusion due to the curiosities of grammar. 
"No cat has nine tails; one cat has one more tail than no 
cat; therefore one cat has ten tails." What are known in 


traditional logic as 'false obversion' and 'false conversion* 
are usually examples of this ambiguity, as for instance to 
interpret "None but the industrious deserve to succeed" 
as equivalent to "All who are industrious deserve to suc- 
ceed " and thence draw the conclusion that because a man 
is industrious he necessarily deserves to succeed. 

(6) An abstract meaning taken as if concrete, sometimes 
known as hypostatization. This leads to remarks about 
abstractions which would apply only to the sort of things 
that we can see, touch, taste, etc. Most of the arguments 
about the existence of the ether, force, inertia, electrons 
involve this ambiguity: these certainly do not exist in 
exactly the same way that tables or trees or houses exist, 
and the meaning of 'existence' must be reformulated to 
apply to them. The debates in philosophy over 'the 
reality of universals' such as 'man,' 'house,' 'tree,' are 
additional examples. 

(7) Confusions arising from a new situation that re- 
quires the dissociation of meanings that have formerly 
been unanalyzed within the meaning of a term. In the 
Middle Ages 'up' and 'down' had apparently each a 
clear and definite meaning. After Copernicus suggested 
that the earth might be considered as revolving, the 
meanings of these terms became ambiguous, because it 
then seemed that what was up now was down twelve hours 
later. Or again, physicists were unable to work out the 
primary law of physics known as "the Conservation of 
Energy" until two separate meanings 'Force' and 
'Energy' which had both been included within the 
meaning of 'Force,' were dissociated. This same type of 
ambiguity lurks in the usual supposition that excellence 
in a work of art is necessarily connected with the work of 
art's ability to 'stand the test of time.' 

(8) The introduction of unexamined assumptions into 
the meaning of a word or of a question. When the latter, 


we get what may be called the fallacy of double question: 
nineteenth century physicists asked, " What is the velocity 
of the earth through space?" unconsciously assuming an 
affirmative answer to the prior question, "Does the earth 
have a velocity through space?" a question which con- 
temporary physicists believe to be meaningless. The first 
question is said to beg the second question. 

When such assumptions are read into the meaning of a 
word we get a question-begging epithet. Thus, if someone 
declares that "Every effect has a cause," his use of the 
word 'effect' prejudges or begs the question at issue, since 
effect gets a meaning only as correlative to cause. 

(9) Confusion concerning the direction of an argument; 
concerning what is to be proved. This is sometimes known 
as ignoratio elenchi> or irrelevant conclusion. If the pros- 
ecuting attorney undertook to prove that the only fit 
punishment for so foul and hideous a murder was death, 
when the real issue was whether the defendant had actually 
committed the perhaps admittedly foul and hideous mur- 
der, this ambiguity would be involved. Many theological 
arguments seem to be of this sort: as when the presence of 
evil in the world is made palatable by stating that a good 
and just God permits it, when the question may well be 
whether or not there is a good and just God. 

(10) Confusions due to shifts in the verbal context. 
Thus, if the publicity manager of a play quotes a dramatic 
critic as having written "populace ought to rise up and see 
this play" when the critic had actually written, "An 
enraged populace ought to rise up and see this play run 
out of town," he is exploiting the possibilities of this type 
of ambiguity. Familiar lines of poetry quoted out of their 
poetic surroundings are often thus ambiguous. We use 
"a custom / More honour'd in the breach than the ob- 
servance" to refer to a (good) custom that is more fre- 
quently broken than observed; whereas in Hamlet it 


refers to a custom that ought to be suspended, that would 
be better honored if it were suspended. 

(n) Relational ambiguity. In ancient Greece this 
type of ambiguity gave rise to several much discussed 
paradoxes. One of the simplest of them was the so-called 
'paradox of the heap/ which consisted of asking a person 
whether one grain of sand made a heap of sand, to which he 
of course replied no; whether a thousand did, to which he 
replied yes; and then asking at what point between one 
and a thousand the grains of sand begin to constitute a 
heap. To this last question no answer other than a purely 
arbitrary one can be given, and the notion of a 'heap of 
sand' was therefore felt to be self-contradictory. The 
contradiction is resolved, however, if a distinction is 
recognized between the relation of contradictories ('heap' 
vs. 'not-heap'), which is the only one the paradox takes 
account of, and the relation of degree ('more or less' of a 
heap) which this way of analyzing the heap would de- 

Several of the famous paradoxes of Zeno were due to 
similar confusions. For example, Zeno argued that when 
an arrow appears to be travelling through the air it is not 
really moving; for motion would imply travelling from 
one spatial point to another (or as Zeno said, from where 
it is to where it is not), but this condition can never be 
realized, since at every moment of time the arrow is where 
it is and not somewhere else. In other words, there is no 
moment at which the arrow is travelling from one point 
to another, since at each moment it is at some one par- 
ticular point; that is to say, it is at rest at that point. 
There are several possible ways of attacking this fallacy, 
though all of them would consist in defining in one way or 
another the relational ambiguity involved. One could, for 
example, distinguish between the continuity of space and 
time, which is presupposed in our ordinary conception of 


motion, and the discrete parts into which we break both 
space and time, when we have occasion to talk merely 
about points and instants without including the intervals 
that actually must always exist between them. Any type 
of analysis, if pressed too far, will lead to paradox. Or 
again, even if we accept the analysis of time as an infinite 
collection of instants and space as an infinite collection of 
points, it is still possible to avoid the paradox, by dis- 
tinguishing between (i) motion, defined by a one-one 
correlation between a series of discrete points and a series 
of discrete instants, (ii) rest, defined by a one-many rela- 
tion between a single point and two, therefore an infinite 
number of, discrete instants, (iii) the simple relation be- 
tween a single point and a single instant, which is what 
Zeno has postulated of the flying arrow and which, since 
it is a situation common to both (i) and (ii), defines 
specifically neither motion nor rest. 

Other examples of this ambiguity would be: confusion 
between transitive and non-transitive relations (these 
terms will be defined in the next chapter), such as when one 
concludes that because a is similar to b y b to c, c to d y 
. . . n, therefore a is similar to n; confusion between the 
relation of continuity and the relation of identity as in the 
argument that mathematics and logic must be identical 
because no sharp line can be drawn between them; or 
confusion, more generally, between the uses of a strict 
logical methodology and the problems (such as esthetic 
and many practical problems) where it is inapplicable or 

(12) Confusions due to shifts in general (implicit and 
contextual) reference. This type of ambiguity is fre- 
quently made use of in plays and novels as 'dramatic 
irony/ For example, when Macbeth tells his wife, 
"Duncan comes here tonight," and Lady Macbeth asks, 
"And when goes hence?" the superficially ordinary ques- 


tion, a natural one for a hostess expecting a guest, is given 
an ambiguous significance because Macbeth, his wife, 
and the audience know that Duncan's murder is being 
prepared for that night. In literature this is a legitimate 
and often most effective device, but in logical discussion, 
where it tends to take the form of a confusion between 
realms of discourse, it leads to trouble. A critic might 
say, "This picture is all right, but it has no meaning," 
failing to recognize that he is probably looking for the 
wrong kind of meaning. Again, scientists often confuse 
the notion of 'observer* in the context of modern physics, 
where the term is merely defining a reference point for 
measurement, with 'observer' in its more usual, non- 
scientific context, where it means a person who is actively 
conscious of something. 

(13) Confusion due to unjustified emotive trappings. 
Many words and word-groups normally carry with them a 
good deal of emotive suggestiveness. There is no great 
harm in this ordinarily; but often the emotive suggestions 
combine with ambiguity to debauch an argument that 
should be kept clear. Even a fairly sober account of 
social and economic conditions in Russia published with 
the title The Red Trade Menace will not always be rated 
on its factual merits. A judge and jury may not be as 
unprejudiced as theoretic ideals require when defendants 
widely known as 'Reds' and 'Atheists' are before them. 
'Atrocities' committed by the 'Enemy' are not likely to be 
closely investigated. In Wall Street language, the 'con- 
structive element' is those speculators working to send 
stocks higher (the bulls), though a careful economist might 
at times feel that stocks were too high for the welfare of 

There is nothing final in such a classification of am- 
biguities. An ambiguity may often be classified under any 


of several types. But this grouping will serve to em- 
phasize some of the problems encountered when we 
attempt to handle words exactly. 


The objections to taking the term as the unit of logical 
meaning emerge from a study of definition and ambiguity. 
In the first place, words are ambiguous; when a word 
appears alone we never know how it is being used, that is 
we cannot be sure what term it is standing for. Even 
when the word is joined to other words ambiguity remains, 
but it is decreased. The word 'law' is very ambiguous 
indeed by itself; it is less ambiguous when we write 
'physical law'; it is still less ambiguous when we write, 
"The physical law of the refraction of light is proved by 
the following series of experiments. " In the last case 
we can be fairly certain about what kind of 'law* we are 
talking. But furthermore, no term does have a meaning 
in isolation. Its meaning can be discovered only through 
its relations to other terms. It is therefore preferable to 
take as our unit of logical meaning something which will 
express a relation between terms, which is, roughly, the 
function of a proposition. 

If the proposition is to be the unit of meaning it clearly 
must be undefined within logic itself, and it is therefore 
taken in propositional logic as an undefined or primitive 
unit of meaning. We can, however, make some effort to 
clarify what is being talked about when we use the word 

Miss Stebbing, in A Modern Introduction to Logic, says 
that a proposition is " any thing that is believed, dis- 
believed, doubted, or supposed." Or again, we might say, 
a proposition is the kind of meaning that can be signifi- 
cantly affirmed or denied; the kind of meaning to which 


'true' and 'false* are directly relevant. A term does not 
fulfill any of these conditions: 'water* or 'fire' by them- 
selves cannot be either affirmed or denied. But "Water 
runs uphill" or "Fire burns'* do fulfill these conditions: 
under ordinary circumstances the first isfa/se, the second 
true. The point is not whether in any particular case a 
proposition is true or false; but that in any particular 
case it would make some sense to call it true or false. 

Every sentence has meaning, not as being the natural means 
by which a physical faculty is realized, but, as we have said, by 
convention. Yet every sentence is not a proposition; only such 
are propositions as have in them either truth or falsity. Thus a 
prayer is a sentence, but is neither true nor false. 1 

(i) It should be observed that a proposition is not the 
same thing as a sentence, any more than a term is the same 
thing as a word. "The dog barks/' "Le chien aboie," 
"Der Hund bellt" are different sentences, but for logical 
purposes they are the same proposition. Furthermore, 
many sentences are not propositions. Exclamatory sen- 
tences, short prayers and cursing are usually not proposi- 
tions, though the latter two might be in a religious context. 
Thus, when we say to some one, "You bastard!" we are 
often not affirming the truth of the factual question of his 
legitimacy, but communicating an emotion; it would be 
foolish to say that the remark is true or false; rather the 
emotion communicated is justified or unjustified, worthy 
or unworthy. Similarly, when Crashaw begins his hymn 
to St. Theresa, "Love, thou art absolute sole Lord / Of 
life and death ..." the meaning is not primarily prep- 
ositional so far as the poem is concerned. There is the 
verbal appearance of a proposition, but the chief question 
is not one of truth or falsity, but how the poetic meaning 
fits into the esthetic structure which constitutes the 

1 Aristotle, De Interpretations, IV, lya, 1-5, tr. Edghill. 


poem. Taken in another context, outside the poem, the 
sentence might become a proposition, and might be 
affirmed or denied. 

Even a declarative sentence used logically is not identi- 
cal with the propositional meaning it symbolizes. Gram- 
matical changes in the structure of the sentence need not 
indicate corresponding logical changes in the logical 
structure of the proposition. "Othello strangled Des- 
demona" and "It was Desdemona whom Othello stran- 
gled " are grammatically two different sentences. In most 
contexts, however, they symbolize the same proposition, 
and identical inferences could be logically drawn from 
them: e.g., if strangling is a crime then Othello is a 

(2) The proposition is not the same thing as a judgment. 
The judgment is an act of accepting or rejecting, in whole 
or in part, as certain or probable or plausible, a proposi- 
tional meaning. "Marriages are made in Heaven " and 
"Watercress is an imperfect substitute for salad" are 
propositions; doubtless they represent judgments in the 
mind of whoever asserts them; but they may be judged, 
perhaps differently, by the reader or hearer as true or as 
false, or as true from some points of view and false from 

(3) fhe principle of significant assertion. A proposi- 
tion is supposed to assert something, and we must make 
sure that it really does assert something and is not merely 
a verbal exercise. One test of this is: if to assert a 
proposition means something logically, to deny it means 
something as well. Of course the denial may be false; 
but at least the possibility of significant denial must make 
sense. Thus, if we say "Water boils at 212 Fahrenheit/' 
it makes sense to deny that water boils at 212; the 
denial happens to be false, but we can understand what 
the situation would be like if it were true. If an alleged 


proposition fails to meet this condition it is no true propo- 
sition, and there is doubtless a question-begging term 
lurking somewhere within it. 

This Principle is of the greatest importance, and the 
failure to observe it leads to the most lamentable confu- 
sions in thinking. To illustrate such a failure we shall 
use an example already cited in another connection: 

Many people at the present time state as an alleged 
proposition, "All reality is physical/' Undoubtedly it 
has all the verbal appearance of an unequivocal proposi- 
tion; moreover its supposed 'truth' or 'falsity' is argued 
about, often most bitterly; and those who assert it bring 
forward elaborate proofs by which they hope to establish 
its truth. It is shown, for instance, how 'the soul' is 
* nothing but' the material organization of the higher 
nervous centers; how 'God' and 'angels' can be ac- 
counted for by glandular secretions; how 'goodness' and 
'beauty' are only certain states of the 'organism' when 
confronted by certain arrangements of external electrons 
and protons. All of this makes a very imposing array 
indeed. But let us apply our test for significant assertion. 
Let us ask a materialist who states that "All reality is 
physical": "What would reality conceivably be like if it 
were not physical? how could we possibly know it or test 
it?" The materialist will probably reply, "That is just 
the point. There is no possible way of testing or knowing 
non-physical reality, and we may therefore conclude that 
the notion of non-physical reality is a dream and illusion." 
What has happened is just this: the methods of the 
physical sciences have presented the materialist with 
elaborate and dependable methods for checking up on 
reality so elaborate and dependable that he rules out 
anything that cannot be checked up by them as non-real, 
or else devises some way of reducing it to physical terms. 
Either 'reality' or 'physical' is a question-begging term. 


Either by * reality' the materialist to start out with means 
'physical reality* or he is using 'physical' so broadly that 
it means the same thing as 'reality': that is, the statement 
"All reality is physical" is logically equivalent either to 
' 'All physical reality is physical " or " All reality is reality." 
In both cases the statement is a tautology and no true 

This analysis may seem over-simplified in view of the 
amount of debate that has gone on during the last century 
over this alleged proposition. The statement, it will be 
argued, must mean something if it is able to rouse such 
discussion. Now it should be observed that we have been 
speaking of propositional meaning alone. The statement 
"All reality is physical" unquestionably does mean some- 
thing, and a great deal; but its meaning is not proposi- 
tional. Its meaning is in large part emotive and directive, 
and might be paraphrased somewhat as follows: "Let's 
drop this superstitious nonsense about the soul and religion 
and abstract moral ideals and stick to the fertile methods 
of the physical sciences. Only by applying those methods 
to all problems can we secure the progress, development, 
and welfare of mankind." Or, on the other hand, it may 
be interpreted as a definition: "By reality we shall mean 
what can be handled by the methods of the physical 
sciences." If we take it as a definition there is no strictly 
logical objection to it; moreover it may turn out to be a 
useful definition, since we have to make distinctions of 
some kind, and this is a distinction which can be made 
fairly clear. But we must always be prepared to recog- 
nize that we may reject the definition when we wish to, 
and that on certain occasions it is advisable to do so. 

Examples of the violation of the Principle might be 
multiplied endlessly. An understanding of it might be 
helped by the independent analysis of: "All great poetry 
is essentially moral." "The only true good is pleasure." 


(4) Propositions may be classified as follows, according 
to the nature of the judgment involved: 

(i) Descriptive. Descriptive propositions may also be 
called factual: that is they are statements of fact, though 
of course the statement need not be true. They are 
assertions of fact within some realm of discourse or other 
not necessarily the realm of discourse we call the physi- 
cal world. They are theoretically verifiable as either true, 
false, or having a certain degree of probability. "Aspara- 
gus is poisonous/' "I left my umbrella at Macy's." 
"The velocity of light is approximately 300,000 kilo- 
meters a second." "The soul is immortal." (See Chap- 
ter V.) 

(ii) Normative. Normative propositions are assertions 
of value. "It is good to have a lot of money." "That is 
the most beautiful painting Rembrandt ever painted." 
"It is bad to spend too much of your time working." 
Clearly such statements can be significantly affirmed or 
denied; they can be discussed and criticized. But, as we 
saw in Chapter II, they are not verifiable in the same sense 
that descriptive statements are verifiable, and the terms 
'true* and ' false ' therefore apply to them in a different 
manner. It will perhaps avoid confusion to regard norma- 
tive propositions as 'acceptable' or 'unacceptable/ 'plaus- 
ible* or not 'plausible/ 'convincing' or 'unconvincing/ 
rather than as 'true' or 'false.' (See Chapters VI and X.) 

(iii) Structural or a priori. In the case of structural 
propositions, 'true' and 'false' have still another meaning. 
For their truth or falsity is derived not from any particular 
experience or experiences, but from the general character 
of experience as revealed in certain types of relations. 
Hence structural propositions cannot be proved or refuted 
by appeals to experience (as in (i)), nor are they subject 
to the hazards of dialectical discussion (as in (ii)); they 
depend wholly on the logical nature of certain relations, 


which is the same for any type of experience to which the 
relations are relevant. Obviously they are not completely 
divorced from experience; if the general character of 
experience were different we should assert different sets of 
structural propositions, since those we now assert would 
no longer be even remotely relevant, and probably would 
never have occurred to us; but they are divorced from par- 
ticular experiences, "x 2 - ixy + y 2 = (x + y) (x - jy)." 
"4 + 3 = 7." "If it is true that when p is true q is true, 
and when q is true r is true, it then follows that when p is 
true r is true/' "If it is true that when p is true q is true, 
it then follows that when q is false p is false." (See 
Chapter IV.) 

These three types are all genuine propositions, in which 
logically distinct meanings are intelligibly related to each 
other. Definitions, on the other hand, are not proposi- 
tions, though we must make a distinction between verbal 
and non-verbal definitions. As was noted above, nothing 
can be concluded from a merely verbal definition, since it 
involves only a sign substitution. Even real definitions 
are not propositions because they are in theory only mak- 
ing clear the meanings already implicit in the definiendum. 
However, if we are willing to accept a real definition, con- 
clusions of a sort can be drawn from it when it is combined 
with the proper sort of genuine proposition. If, for 
instance, we accept a definition of an apple as the fruit of 
a certain recognizable variety of tree, we might combine 
this with the proposition, "This is such a tree," and come 
to the legitimate conclusion, "Therefore its fruit, if any, 
are apples." 

(5) The internal structure of propositions. If we 
analyze a proposition, we may consider that, for logical 
purposes, it affirms a relation between two or more terms 
#RRdR . . . n, where <z, b y c . . . n represent any 
non-identical terms, and R the relation. Within any 


proposition, however, we have a certain amount of choice 
about how we shall distinguish the terms; and our choice 
will depend on the kind of argument we wish to construct. 
Given, for example, the proposition, "Logic is duller than 
poetry." If we want to fit this into an argument together 
with a second proposition, "Psychology is duller than 
logic/' we must take 'logic* and 'poetry' as the terms 
(by c) and ' duller than ' as the relation (R) asserted to hold 
between them. This relation holds between psychology 
(a) and logic as well as between logic and poetry; and since 
the relation is transitive (this word will be explained in the 
next chapter), it holds also between psychology and 
poetry: whence we may conclude: "Psychology is duller 
than poetry." 

Suppose, however, that we wished to join our original 
proposition, "Logic is duller than poetry," to a new 
proposition, "All studies duller than poetry ought to be 
dropped from the curriculum." It will now be necessary 
to interpret the original proposition as having the two 
terms, 'logic' and 'studies duller than poetry,' and the 
relation between them one of class membership: that is, 
'logic' belongs to the class of studies all of which are 
characterized by being 'duller than poetry.' The new 
proposition asserts universally of such studies that they 
should be 'dropped from the curriculum,' and we may 
thence conclude: "Logic should be dropped from the 

(6) Propositions of the first and second order. Proposi- 
tions of the first order are the type we have just discussed 
in (5), that is, propositions which assert a relation between 
terms: "Mathematicians are wise men"; "The moon is 
made of green cheese." Propositions of the second order 
are those which assert a relation between two or more 
propositions of the first order: "Whenever it rains one 
does well to carry an umbrella"; "If he understands the 


theory of relativity he is a better man than I imagined"; 
"If business improves it will be a good thing for the Re- 
publican Party." It should be noticed, however, that 
these two types are sometimes mutually translatable. 
Thus, "Mathematicians are wise men" becomes, trans- 
lated into a proposition of the second order, "If anyone is 
a mathematician he must be wise." 




(A) If all Red Indians are one-eyed and if all Congress- 
men are Red Indians, it then follows that all Congressmen 
are one-eyed. 

If we consider this argument it is evident that the in- 
ference it makes is not very useful, since in all probability 
it would never be applied: that is, no one will wish to 
remove the hypothetical 'if before the first two proposi- 
tions. But let us compare it with: 

(B) If all mammals have lungs and if all men are 
mammals, it then follows that all men have lungs. 

Clearly there is a great difference between (A) and (B), 
yet from one point of view they seem closely similar. The 
difference is just this: if we remove the ifs from (B) we 
have three propositions that happen to be true; if we 
remove the if's from (A) we have three propositions that 
happen to be false. But as arguments (A) is just as good 
as (B). Now in the present chapter we shall be occupied 
not with the truth or falsity (or. probability) of individual 
assertions, but with the structure of arguments, with the 
form of reasoning. We must therefore distinguish at the 
outset between truth and validity. Validity is a question 
solely of the structure of arguments, and may be treated 
quite apart from the truth or falsity of the assertions that 
make up the arguments. (A) and (B) are equally valid. 
The argument, "If some men are vertebrates, and if 



Ghandi is a man, it then follows that Ghandi is a verte- 
brate," is invalid even though its individual parts, when 
asserted categorically, are true. 

Logical structure is founded on certain traits belonging 
to relations. We cannot define relations, but we have been 
taking them for granted in discussing propositions, and 
we can usually recognize them. They are, however, so 
various that they can be variously read into any given 
passage. Thus, in the proposition, "Philonous is the 
brother of Lafcadio," Philonous stands to Lafcadio in the 
relation 'brother of; if, on the other hand, 'brother of 
Lafcadio' is taken as a single term, Philonous stands to 
it in the relation 'characterized by being' or 'having the 
characteristic of/ 

We shall not go into the many properties of relations 
that are discussed in books on 'symbolic logic/ But for 
the types of logical structure that are of particular im- 
portance in approaching philosophical problems, two 
classifications are important: 

(i) Relations may be classified as symmetrical \ asym- 
metrical, and non-symmetrical. 

(i) A symmetrical relation is one such that if a bears that 
relation to b, b must bear the same relation to a. Ex- 
amples would be: 'equal to'; 'unequal to'; 'brother or 
sister of ; 'playing cards with'; 'different from.' 

(ii) An asymmetrical relation is one such that if a bears 
that relation to b> b cannot bear the same relation to a. 
Examples would be: 'father of; 'greater than'; 'west of.' 

(iii) A non-symmetrical relation is one such that if a 
bears that relation to , b may or may not bear the same 
relation to a. Examples would be: 'brother of; 'related 
to by a mathematical difference that is a factor of itself; 
'never without the co-presence of; 'in love with/ 


It is evident that the symmetricality and asymmetrical- 
ity of relations enable us to draw valid inferences, while 
their non-symmetricality does not. Thus, if we know 
that a is playing cards with b y we may at once infer that b 
is playing cards with a\ if we know that a is the father of 
by we may at once infer that b is not the father of a (we 
may in fact infer that b stands in a converse relation to a, 
which as in the case of ' father of we might know to be 
'son or daughter of); but from knowing that a is in love 
with b we cannot validly infer whether or not b is in love 
with a. 

(2) Relations may be classified as transitive, intransitive, 
and non-intransitive. This classification is independent of 
the preceding. 

(i) A transitive relation is one such that if a bears that 
relation to b and b bears it to c y a must bear it to c. Ex- 
amples would be: 'ancestor of; 'greater than'; 'equal to'; 
'west of/ 

(ii) An intransitive relation is one such that if a bears 
it to b and b bears it to c, a cannot bear it to c. Examples 
would be: 'father of; 'greater by 3'; 'half of/ 

(iii) A non-transitive relation is one such that if a bears 
it to b and b bears it to c, a may or may not bear it to c. 
Examples would be: 'friend of; 'murderer of; 'un- 
equal to/ 

It is evident that the transitivity and intransitivity of 
relations enable us to draw valid inferences, while their 
non-transitivity does not. Thus, if we know that a is 
greater than b and that b is greater than r, we may at 
once infer that a is greater than c\ if we know that a is 
half of b and that b is half of r, we may at once infer that a 
is not half of c\ but from knowing that a is the friend of b 
and that b is the friend of c we can draw no valid inference 
about whether or not a is the friend of c. 



We shall now consider certain important relations that 
can hold between propositions, whereby simple (first order) 
propositions are combined to form compound (second 
order) propositions. For convenience, we shall let />, q, r y 
. . . n stand for propositions. Thus, instead of writing 
"All material bodies gravitate" or "Caviare is a strange 
mete like blacke sope" or "Bison are indigenous to North 
America," we shall write p\ whereas q y r y etc. will stand 
for propositions that are not identical with p nor with 
each other. Thus generalized as p, q y and r y we may con- 
sider the validity of relations holding among p, q y and r 
apart from the truth or falsity of any definite propositions 
which in a particular argument might take their places. 

Where possible p y q y and r should be used for simple 
propositions; compound propositions can then be ex- 
pressed as relations holding between them. We saw in 
the last chapter, however, that the distinction between 
simple and compound propositions is not always sharp. 

p is any proposition considered apart from its truth or 
falsity. ~ p will stand for the contradictory of p y for the 
proposition that would be got by denying p. Strictly, 
logic studies the validity of relations holding between 
propositions // their truth or falsity is asserted. The 
assertion that a proposition is true or that a relation 
between propositions holds we shall symbolize by ' h.' 
A proposition of the form h p is called categorical. Thus, 
h- p and I q might stand respectively for "It's never too 
late to mend" and "Communication is difficult." h- ~ p 
and (- ~ q would then stand for "It is false that it's 
never too late to mend" (or, "It's at least sometimes too 
late to mend") and "It is false that communication is 
difficult" (or, disregarding possible verbal ambiguities, 
"Communication is not difficult"). We shall further as- 


sume, so long as we stick to generalized logical structure, 
that either p or ~ p, and not both, is in every case true 
(though we have seen that there are degrees of truth and 
falsity in most concrete propositions). 

The compound propositions formed by relating simple 
propositions are of two kinds: conjunctive and composite. 
Conjunctive propositions are those formed by the con- 
junctive relation, expressed usually by the word 'and': 
'p and q*\ 'p and q and r. 9 We shall write these simply 
p q*\ 'p q r. 9 Conjunctive propositions are not very 
important (by themselves) for logical purposes, for the 
following reason: from the assertion of the truth or 
falsity of any one constituent proposition of a conjunctive 
proposition we can infer nothing about the truth or falsity 
of the other constituent (or constituents). Given 'p 
and q'i if we assert p to be true, nothing further follows 
about the truth or falsity of <?; if we assert q to be true, 
nothing further follows about the truth or falsity of p. 
And likewise if we assert either to be false. 

In composite propositions, on the other hand, there are 
certain connections between the truth values of the simple 
propositions that go to make up the compound proposi- 
tions; and the truth or falsity of any one constituent is 
sometimes a function of the truth or falsity of another. 
By this is meant that sometimes it is possible to make a 
valid inference from the truth or falsity of one constituent 
proposition to the truth or falsity of another. This will 
be made clear by a brief outline of three types of com- 
posite proposition: 

(i) The implicative proposition, formed by the implica- 
tive relation: 'if p then q' (or, expanded, 'if p is true 
then q is true*). We shall write this p< q. p is called the 


implicans or antecedent of y, which is called the implicate 
or consequent. "If he is honorable, he will tell the truth." 
Now, the assertion of an implicative proposition ( h p 
< q) does not assert the truth either of p or of y, but 
simply that the implicative relation holds between p and 
q. But by asserting independently the truth of />, the 
implicans, we can infer the truth of y, the implicate. "He 
is honorable." "Therefore he will tell the truth." Again, 
by asserting independently the falsity of the implicate 
(h ~q)j we can infer the falsity of the implicans (h ~/>). 
"He does not tell the truth." "Therefore he is not 
honorable." But from the assertion of the truth of q 
(the implicate) or the falsity of p (the implicans), we are 
not entitled to infer anything about the truth or falsity of, 
respectively, p or q. If he tells the truth it may be for 
reasons of expediency and not necessarily because he is 
honorable. Likewise, if he is not honorable, he may 
nevertheless tell the truth through the operation of some 
other motive. These truth functions may be summarized 
as follows. 

Given: h- (p < q) 

h- p\ therefore h- q 
h- ~ q\ therefore h- ~p 
H- q: p is indeterminate 
h ~ p: q is indeterminate 

It is evident that the implicative relation is non- 
symmetrical: that is, from the proposition 'p < q' the 
proposition ' q < p' does not necessarily follow (though in 
some cases, of course, it might). From the statement, 
"If you drink much arsenic you will die" we are not en- 
titled to infer "If you die, you must have drunk a lot of 
arsenic." The proposition 'q < p' is a different proposi- 
tion from 'p < q.' 


(ii) The alternative proposition, formed by the alterna- 
tive relation: 'either p or q y (or, expanded, 'either p is 
true or q is true'). We shall write this p V q. In an 
alternative proposition p and q are called alternants. 
"Either he is ill or he is busy." This relation is sym- 
metrical: q V p may be substituted for p V q. 

Colloquially 'either ... or' often means 'either . . . 
or ... and not both/ When we say, "My hat is either 
in the closet or in the dining room," it cannot, we know, 
be both in the closet and in the dining room. But it is 
more advantageous from a logical point of view, because 
logically simpler, to leave this latter possibility open: 
'either^) or q y and possibly both.' In the example given 
in the preceding paragraph, the person in question might 
be both ill and busy; the alternative proposition states 
only that he must be at least one or the other. We can 
then derive the colloquial use by joining an alternative 
with a disjunctive proposition (to be discussed in (iii)). 
Accepting the simpler interpretation, we may say: if 
either alternant is false, the other must be true; but if 
either is true, the other is indeterminate. If he is not ill, 
he must be busy; if he is not busy, he must be ill; if he is 
ill, he may or may not be busy; if he is busy, he may or 
may not be ill. 

Given: h (p V q) 

h- ~/>; therefore h- q 
h- ~ q\ therefore h- p 
h />: q is indeterminate 
h- q\ p is indeterminate 

(iii) The disjunctive proposition, formed by the disjunc- 
tive relation: 'not both p and q' We shall write this 
p A q. In a disjunctive proposition p and q are called 
disjunct*. This relation, like the alternative relation, is 
symmetrical, and q A p may be substituted for p A q. 


"He is not both going to play tennis and swim." And, 
it should be noticed, perhaps neither. 

If either disjunct is true, the other must be false; but if 
either is false, the other is indeterminate. If he is swim- 
ming he is not going to play tennis; but if he is not 
swimming he may or may not play tennis. 

Given: h- (p A q) 

h p\ therefore h ~ q 
h q\ therefore h- ~ p 
h- ~ p\ q is indeterminate 
h- ~ q: p is indeterminate 

Here again it should be noted that the actual use of 
language is much more complex than the structurally 
simple logical relation. "You can't be both a murderer 
and a home-breaker !" in some contexts might be a way of 
exclaiming that you are probably both; and in others, by a 
shift of accent, would be meant to suggest that you are at 
least one. And in general we may once more observe that 
wherever words come in there also enter possibilities of 
ambiguity. For instance, when we say "Unless it is nice 
weather I shan't go out" one is likely to infer "If it is 
nice weather I shall go out." But logically this entitles 
us to infer merely "If it is not nice weather I shan't go 
out." 'Unless p y q> written as an implication, becomes 
' ~ p < q? Again, "Only if I get a raise in salary shall 
I go to Europe" becomes "If I do not get a raise, I shall 
not go to Europe." Schematically: 'only if/>, y' becomes 
' ~ p < ~ q? 

Two further relations holding between these compound 
propositions should be noted: (iv) Logical equivalence 
if/) then q and also if q then p\ that is, (p < q)(q < p). 
We shall write this p == q. (v) Logical contradiction 
(p V q)(p A q). 


For the sake of simplicity in exposition, the composite 
relations have been listed as different sorts of relations 
holding between propositions. If we wish, however, all 
may be derived from any one, through certain logical 
equivalences that hold among them. And, as we have 
seen, two separate implicative propositions may be derived: 
(p < y) == (~ y < ~p). "If you drink much arsenic you 
will die" is equivalent to "If you do not die you haven't 
been drinking much arsenic." The two implicative propo- 
sitions so related are known as contrapositives, and the 
transformation from one to the other as contraposition. 

We may sum up the equivalences that hold among 
composite propositions in the following table. 

Implicative Implicative Disjunctive Alternative 

(p<q) (~q < ~p) (p A ~q) ** (~ p V q) 

(~p<~q) m(q<p) -(~pAy) m (p V ~ q) 

(p < ~ q) m (q < f^f p) m (p A q) EH ( ~ p V ~ q) 

(~p<y) **(~q<p) m (~ p A ^ q) (p v q) 

Since p and q stand for any non-identical propositions, 
given a composite proposition in any of the four forms we 
are entitled to infer the remaining three with no additional 

Starting with an alternative proposition 

Alternative: You are either stupid or wicked. 

Implicative: If you are not stupid you are wicked. 

Implicative: If you are not wicked you are stupid. 

Disjunctive: You are not both not stupid and not 

Starting with an implicative proposition 

Implicative: If God's in his heaven, all's right with the 

Implicative: If all's not right with the world, God's not 
in his heaven. 


Disjunctive: It cannot be the case both that God's in 
his heaven and all's not right with the world. 

Alternative: Either God's not in his heaven or all's 
right with the world. 

Starting with a disjunctive proposition 

Disjunctive: You can't both eat your cake and have it 

Alternative: Either you can't eat your cake or you can't 
have it. 

Implicative: If you eat your cake you can't have it. 

Implicative: If you want to have your cake you can't 
eat it. 

In the following sections certain elementary logical 
structures will be taken up. In the case of each the 
generalized symbolic form will first be given, with the chief 
implication which is asserted surrounded by dots 
' < ' This marks the division between premises and con- 
clusion, the place where if the argument were stated in 
words * therefore ' would appear. An analysis will follow 
showing the steps in the argument. 


(1) A logical structure by which a conclusion is declared 
to follow from two or more premises is called a syllogism. 

I- < ?)/><? 
If p then q 

Therefore q 

(2) A longer, interlocked chain of reasoning is known as 
a sorites. Simpler chains use implicative propositions 
(more extended arguments using other types of proposi- 
tions will be discussed later). 


h (p <q)(q <r)(r <s)p.<-s 
If p then q 
If q then r 
If r then s 

Therefore s 

The implicative relation is transitive, and therefore from 
the three implicative premises alone we may conclude 
hypothetically, p < s. By taking these together with the 
categorical premise asserting/), we may conclude categori- 
cally, h s. 

(3) In rebuttal we accept the same chain of implicative 
propositions as one set of premises; but as our categorical 
premise we take a denial of the conclusion of the argument 
to be rebutted a denial which is perhaps itself the con- 
clusion of another chain of reasoning. 

Given: h (p < q)(q < r)(r < s}p <- s 

Rebuttal: h (n < ~ s)(~ s < ~ r)(~ r < ~ q) 
(~ q < ~ p)n -< ~ p 

If p then q Rebuttal: If n then ~ s 

If q then r If ~ s then ~ r 

If r then s If ~ r then ~ y 

/> If ~ q then /^/> 

Therefore s n 

Therefore ~ p 

Each of the implicative propositions has been contra- 
posed, as explained above. Of course in any actual argu- 
ment not all of the steps will usually be made explicit: 

Since the universe is guided by divine justice, we must be 
ultimately rewarded and punished for our merits and demerits. 
But if this is so there must be a future life for each individual, 
wherein he shall receive the rewards and penalties not meted 
him in this life. That is why I believe in personal immortality. 


Rebuttal: Scientific examination of the physiological condi- 
tions of consciousness makes personal immortality a ridiculous 
supposition. This means that there is no opportunity for the 
adjusting of moral accounts not adjusted in the present life. 
The universe, therefore, is not guided by divine justice. 

(4) Very few actual arguments are complete from a 
structural point of view. Usually one of the premises, or 
less often the conclusion, does not have to be stated, and 
we get an abbreviated form of argument called in logic an 
enthymeme. For example: "He can't be very honest, 
because he's a politician/' Here the conclusion ("He 
can't be very honest") is supported by an unstated 
premise: "If anyone is a politician he can't be very 
honest." A special rhetorical effect is often gained by 
omitting the conclusion: "When people get angry in an 
argument they're usually not very sure of their position; 
and here you are getting angry." 

Sometimes both one premise and the conclusion are left 
unstated, to be inferred from the single premise that is 
made explicit. "Only a coward would do what you are 
doing." Logically this is equivalent to "If anyone does 
what you are doing he's a coward." The hearer is ob- 
viously intended to assert the implicans and thus get the 
affirmative conclusion, "You are a coward." Or, " If he's 
a musician I'll lay an egg." In this case the hearer is 
expected to assume that I'll not lay an egg (deny the 
implicate) and thus reach the negative conclusion. "He's 
not a musician." "Yes indeed, your ideal of universal 
socialism is quite charming, and as soon as human nature 
becomes purged of all suspicion and greed I dare say you 
will be able to realize it." In the course of an argument the 
logical steps are seldom all articulated; and a good pre- 
liminary measure in attacking an argument is often to 
discover what premises would have to be supplied to 
complete it. 


Consider the syllogism: 

H (p <?)/>'<? 
If p then q 

Therefore q 

The argument may be complicated by having either the 
antecedent or the consequent (implicans or implicate) 
take an alternative or a conjunctive form. Thus: 

(1) h [(/> V n) <q](p V )<? 
If either p or n then q 

Either p or n 
Therefore q 

(2) h [(/>) <?](/>) <? 
If both /> and w then y 
Both /> and n 
Therefore q 

(3) H[/> <(y V r)]/>-<-( ? V r) 
* If/> then either y or r 


Therefore either 9 or r 

(4) H[> < (?r)]/>-<-(?r) 
If/> then both q and r 

Therefore both q and r 

These offer no difficulty, and are too obvious to need 
examples. The forms, however, become somewhat more 
complex when, instead of affirming the antecedent, we 
deny the consequent: 


(5) H L(p V) <?] ~-<-~ (p V n) m(~p~n) 
If either p or n then y 

~ ? 

Therefore neither/) nor n (~ p and also ~ n) 

(6) h [(/>)< y] ~ ? < (p A tt) ss (~p V ~ n) 
If both p and w then y 

Therefore not both /> and n (either ~ p or ~ n) 

(7) I- [/> < (q V r)] ~ (y V r) - < ~p 
If p then either y or r 

Neither q nor r (~ y and also ~ r) 
Therefore ~ 

(8) h Q) < (yr)](y A r)-<-~p 
If/) then both q and r 
Not both q and r (either ~ y or ~ r) 
Therefore ~ p 

The following will serve as examples of forms (5)-(8) : 

(5) If he were either a hundred percent American or a suc- 
cessful business man he would support the present system of 
government. He does not, however, support the present sys- 
tem, and is therefore neither a hundred percent American nor a 
successful business man (not a hundred percent American and 
also not a successful business man). 

(6) If Prohibition is both morally desirable and economically 
advantageous it ought to be enforced. But many intelligent 
people are opposed to the enforcement of Prohibition. Pre- 
sumably, then, they believe it is not both morally desirable and 
economically advantageous (i.e. they believe that it is either 
morally undesirable or economically disadvantageous and 
possibly, of course, both.) 

(7) If censorship is to work it must either educate people not 
to want improper books or prevent them from being sold. But 
it can neither educate people not to want improper books nor 


can it prevent them from being sold. Therefore censorship can't 

Zeno's paradox, previously referred to, is generally 
stated in this form. 

In order to move a body must move either in the place where 
it is or in a place where it is not. But it cannot move in the place 
where it is, for so long as it stays in the place where it is, it is 
at rest. And it is manifestly impossible for it to move in a 
place where it is not. Therefore it cannot move. 

In this case the * ~ q* is supported by an enthymemic 
syllogism. In the following argument from Plato's 
dialogue, Meno, both parts of the premise are thus sup- 
ported; and furthermore the first premise and the con- 
clusion are understood without being made explicit. 

It is impossible for a man to seek (learn) either that which he 
knows or that of which he is ignorant. For no man would seek 
to learn that which he knows, because he has the knowledge of 
it already, and has no need for seeking for what he has. Nor 
could any man seek for what he is ignorant of, because he would 
not then know what he is seeking for. 

(8) If we are to enjoy life in the present age we must both 
make a great deal of money to spend and have considerable 
leisure in which to spend it. But it is difficult to see how, with 
only twenty-four hours a day at our disposal, we shall be able to 
do both; and consequently it seems improbable that we shall 
enjoy life. 

There are innumerable ways of complicating these 
forms, but it is not necessary to list all possibilities. 


The dilemma is an argumentative device of great im- 
portance, frequently to be discovered, in more or less 


complete form, in philosophical and every other kind of 
discussion. Its first premise is a conjunctive proposition 
of the third order, having as constituents two implicative 
(second order) propositions: If p then q and if r then s. 
Four possibilities then arise, according as the second 
premise affirms the two antecedents or denies the two 
consequents, and according as it is conjunctive or alterna- 

(9) t- (/> < q)(r < s)(p V r) < (q V s) 
If p then q and If r then s 
Either p or r 
Therefore either q or s 

(10) h (p <q}(r <s}(pr) -<-(qs) 
If p then q and if r then s 
Both p and r 

Therefore both q and s 

(11) h (p < q)(r < J) ~ (q V j) < ~ (/> V r) 
= (~/> ~ r ) 

If/> then q and if r then s 

Neither q nor j (both ~ q and ~ s) 

Therefore neither p nor r (both -^/> and ~ r) 

(12) H (/> < q)(r < s}(q A j) < (/> A r) a (~ /> 
V ~j) 

If/> then y and if r then j 

Not both q and J (either ^ q or ^ j) 

Therefore not both p and r (either ~ p or ~ r) 

Numbers (10) and (i i) are perhaps not to be considered 
dilemmas, because their second premise is conjunctive 
rather than composite: each is the equivalent of two 
simple syllogisms of the type that has already been dis- 
cussed. But we shall see that they bear important rela- 
tions to numbers (9) and (12) when we take them up 


presently (p. 126). For no particular reason, (9) is usually 
called a 'constructive dilemma* and (12) a destructive 
dilemma.' The alternatives presented in the second 
premise are called the 'horns' of the dilemma. To 'go 
between the horns of the dilemma' is to question the sec- 
ond premise: to question, that is, whether the alternatives 
are really exhaustive whether it might not be possible 
to avoid both of them. To 'take the dilemma by the 
horns' is to question whether the consequences stated in 
the first premise follow. 

(9) If the President signs the bill he will incur the enmity of 
Wall Street; if he vetos it he will incur the enmity of Congress. 
But he must either sign or veto it. Hence he must either incur 
the enmity of Wall Street or incur the enmity of Congress. 

(12) If God is benevolent He must desire to avert human 
suffering, and if He is omnipotent He must be able to do so. 
However, the fact that there is human suffering shows that 
either He does not desire to avert it or He is unable to do so. 
We must conclude therefore that God is either not benevolent 
or not omnipotent. 

It should be observed that the reason why a dilemma is 
effective in argument is that the alternants of the con- 
clusion have some important quality or implication in 
common which is taken for granted by both the dilem- 
matist and his audience. Thus in our example of (9) it is 
understood that to incur the enmity of Wall Street or of 
Congress is in either case to lose a certain amount of 
political strength; and in our example of (12), that for 
God to be not benevolent or not omnipotent in either case 
breaks down the orthodox Christian conception of God. 
Carrying out this tail-piece of a dilemma and thus making 
explicit the categorical conclusion that is implicit in each 
of the alternants is in effect to supplement a constructive 
dilemma (form (9)) with an argument of form (i); and 


to supplement a destructive dilemma (form (12)) with an 
argument of form (8). Given a constructive dilemma: 

If p then q and if r then s 
Either p or r 
Therefore either q or s 

we can take the conclusion as one premise of a new 
syllogism; and, adding as a second premise * if either q or s 
then // we get as a second conclusion, 'therefore // 
Since 'if either q or s then /' can be transformed into 'if q 
then / and if s then /,' the argument can be elided as 
follows, omitting the first conclusion: 

(13) h- (p V r)(p < q)(r < s)( 9 < t)(s </)</ 
Either p or r 

If p then q and if r then s 
If q then / and if s then / 
Therefore / 

We may call this a full dilemma, in contradistinction to 
the former, which may be called a partial or hypothetical 

The President must either sign or veto the bill. If he signs 
the bill he will incur the enmity of Wall Street; if he vetos 
it he will incur the enmity of Congress. If he incurs the enmity 
of Wall Street he will be losing political strength; if he incurs the 
enmity of Congress he will likewise be losing political strength. 
Therefore whatever happens he will be losing political strength. 

As a comment on human nature it may be noted that the 
dilemma is most often used to support an undesirable 
conclusion. However, it need not be 

I must either save the money I earn or spend it. If I save 
my money I shall provide against troubles in my old age; if I 
spend it I shall have an amusing time. If I have provided 
against troubles in my old age I have achieved a good end; if I 


have an amusing time I have likewise achieved a good end. 
Therefore in any case I have achieved a good end. 

Given a destructive dilemma: 

If p then q and if r then s 

Not both q and s (either ~ q or ~ s) 

Therefore not both p and r (either ~ p or ~ r) 

we can use this conclusion as one premise of a new syl- 
logism; and, adding as a second premise, 'if n then both 
p and r/ get as a second conclusion, ' therefore ~ / 
Eliding, we get our second type of full dilemma: 

(14) H[ < (/>r)](/> <y)(r < j)(y A j)-<-~ n 
If then both p and r 
If p then y and if r then j 
Not both q and J (either ~ q or ~ j) 
Therefore ~ # 

In words 

If the orthodox Christian conception is to be believed, God 
is both benevolent and omnipotent. If God is benevolent He 
must desire to avert human suffering, and if He is omnipotent 
He must be able to do so. But the fact that there is human 
suffering shows that either He does not desire to avert it or is 
unable to do so. Therefore the orthodox Christian conception 
is not to be believed. 


American capitalistic theory states that each man should be 
given equal economic opportunity and unrestricted possibility 
of economic gain from his own enterprise. Equal opportunity 
would require that no economic conditions should favor one 
man rather than another at the outset of his economic career; 
but when one man advances in economic status over another 
there is automatically involved a restriction of the opportunities 
of the other, and a balance economically in favor of the children 


and friends of the man who has thus advanced. (Omitting the 
next premise): Therefore American capitalistic theory is self- 

The dilemmas we have been considering we may call 
'material' dilemmas. By this is meant that, in forms (9) 
and (13), the alternative proposition (p V r) is simply 
asserted, without logical necessity (or, in the cases of 
forms (12) and (14), the disjunctive proposition (q A s)). 
Now in what may be called a * formal' dilemma we take 
as the alternative proposition, (p V<^^>), a proposition 
which from a purely logical point of view must be true 
p must be either true or false. We then get for our formal 
constructive dilemma (we shall omit application to the 
destructive dilemma, which should be obvious enough): 

(15) h (/> V ~ p}(p < y)(~/> < s)(q < /)(j < /) 

Either p or ~ p 
If p then q and if ~ p then s 
If q then / and if s then / 
Therefore / 

In attacking a dilemma we can, as we have seen, grasp it 
by the horns or go between them. These maneuvers, 
however, are not so much attacks on the dilemmatic 
structure as denials of the truth of, respectively: (a) One 
or both halves of the third-order conjunctive proposition, 
'If p then q and if r then j'; (b) the alternative (or dis- 
junctive) proposition that is our other chief premise. 
Naturally, whenever we leave the structural realm of 
logic that is, whenever we give concrete values to our 
/>'s and y's we should examine carefully the truth of 
each premise. Only extra-logical information will tell 
us when we are justified in asserting the truth of specific 
propositions in the forms 'if p then q and if r then j/ 
' either/) or y,' 'not both q and j/ 


When considering a purely formal dilemma, however, 
we do not have to worry about (p V ~ p), because so far 
as logic is concerned, this proposition must be true. But 
when we are using words instead ofp and ~ p there arises, 
through the operation of certain of the ambiguities dis- 
cussed in the last chapter, a deceptive and persuasive con- 
fusion that may be called the dilemmatic fallacy. This is 
due first to the difference between logical contradictories 
(p and ~/>) and verbal statements that have the appear- 
ance of being contradictories. For, even though our words 
may have the appearance of genuine logical contradic- 
tories, we are likely to treat them at some point during an 
argument as merely opposed to each other (as contraries 
or disjuncts) rather than as exhaustive alternatives. 
What happens in a dilemma is this: we are willing to 
accept the alternative premise because it has the verbal 
appearance of an (p V ~ p) proposition and if we so 
understood it throughout the dilemma we should not run 
into trouble; the third-order conjunctive proposition also 
seems persuasive but only because the words used forp 
and ~ p no longer stand for strict contradictories. The 
dilemmatic fallacy can best be explained through a defi- 
nite example. 

Either it is right to kill another human being or it is not 
right. If it is right, murder is not a crime and should not be 
punished. If it is not right, there is no justification for putting 
anyone to death, which would only multiply wrongs. Thus, 
in either case, capital punishment cannot be defended. 

An analysis of this dilemma would reveal that in the first 
proposition "it is right to kill another human being" and 
"it is not right to kill another human being" are treated 
as if they were strict logical contradictories otherwise 
the proposition would not be accepted as a true premise. 
But in the succeeding propositions they are handled as if 


merely contraries, and the shifting meanings of the word 
'right' are utilized to lend plausibility to statements 
which could only properly be understood if the whole 
context through which each has meaning were made 
explicit. A more subtle example of the dilemmatic 
fallacy, which depends upon confusions in realms of dis- 
course, such as will be discussed in Chapter VI, is the 

What we know must be either external to our minds or not 
external to our minds. If external, we can never be sure that 
our ideas give us a correct account of it; if not external, then 
the reality of what we know is purely mental. If we can never 
be sure that our ideas give a correct account, then our only 
valid knowledge is of our ideas alone; and this likewise follows 
if the reality of what we know is purely mental. And con- 
sequently, whether what we know is external or not external, 
in any case our only valid knowledge is of our ideas. 

Of course facts can make alternatives exhaustive when 
they are not logical contradictories. For instance, in one 
of the dilemmas cited above, "The President must either 
sign the bill or veto it" exhausts all possibilities not be- 
cause vetoing the bill is logically contradictory to signing 
it, but because the Constitution provides that not signing 
it will be a veto by definition (when ten days elapse). 
The general nature of experience presents many exhaustive 
alternatives, such as "We must either eat or die"; and 
they have even been established by divine fiat: "He who 
is not with Me is against Me." 


The 'counter-dilemma' is an argumentative device that 
will sometimes work and sometimes will not. Given the 
partial dilemma: 


h (p<q)(r<s)(p Vr)-<-(? V j) 
If p then q and if r then s 
Either p or r 
Therefore either y or ^ 

Now if, by shifting the emphasis, it can be persuasively 
declared that another consequence of p is ~ s y and that 
another consequence of r is ~ q> a 'counter-dilemma' can 
be constructed as follows: 

h (/> < ~<0(r < ~ q)(p V r) < (~ s V ~ y) 

If p then ~ j and if r then ~ y 

Either p or r 

Therefore either ~ s or ~ y 

Logically the two conclusions are consistent with each 
other: since if q were true and s were false, or if q were 
false and s true, both conclusions would be simultaneously 
true. The effectiveness of a counter-dilemma lies not in 
refuting the explicit conclusion of the original partial 
dilemma, but in implicitly refuting the / which we have 
seen is usually attached to both alternants of the con- 
clusion. Thus the full form of the counter-dilemma 
would be: 

h (p V r)(/> < ~j)(r < ~y)(~J < ~/)(~f < ~/) 
*< ~/ 
Either/) or r 

If p then ~ s and if r then ~ q 
If ~ j then ~ / and \f ~ q then ~ / 
Therefore ~ / 

Thus in the earlier illustration about the President either 
signing or vetoing the bill, we found an implied categorical 
conclusion that in either case he would lose political 
strength. A counter-dilemma would not logically refute 


this conclusion so much as oppose to it a contrary and 
counteracting conclusion: 

The President must either sign or veto the bill. If he signs 
the bill he will please Congress; if he vetos the bill he will 
please Wall Street. If he pleases Congress he will gain support; 
if he pleases Wall Street he will gain support. Therefore what- 
ever happens he will strengthen his position. 

How true the new premises are, and how much weight 
should be attached to them, must of course be decided 
from our knowledge of the actual situation that is being 
dealt with. 

A classical example of the reply to a dilemma by a 
counter-dilemma is the famous story, Litigiosus. Pro- 
tagoras, the Greek sophist, had agreed to give Euathlus 
instruction in 'rhetoric* (i.e. argumentation) on condition 
that Euathlus should pay half the tuition fee at the close 
of the course and half when he had won his first case in 
court. After finishing the instruction Euathlus failed to 
try any cases in court. Protagoras, becoming suspicious 
and fearing he would never collect the other half of his fee, 
brought suit against Euathlus, and Euathlus conducted 
his own defence. Protagoras in arguing his case used the 
following dilemma: 

If Euathlus loses this case, he must pay by judgment of the 
court; if he wins, he must pay by the terms of our agreement. 
But he must either win the case or lose it. 
Therefore, however it turns out, he must pay. 

Euathlus retorted: 

If I win this case, I don't have to pay by the judgment of 
the court; if I lose, I don't have to pay by the terms of the 

But I must either win the case or lose it. 

Therefore, however it turns out, I don't have to pay. 



We saw (on p. 117) that forms (10) and (11) are not, 
strictly speaking, dilemmas, since they have conjunctive 
second premises. They are, however, useful in certain 
dilemmatic activities, and we may call them 'conjunctive 

We have seen how the simple syllogism 'if p then q\ 
p\ therefore q' is rebutted by denying <?, and thence con- 
cluding ~ p. 

Given the full dilemma: 

h- (p V r) (p < q) (r < j) (q < /) (s < /) < / 

Either p or r 

If p then q and if r then s 

If q then / and if s then / 

Therefore / 

To rebut, we begin by denying /, contraposing the im- 
plicative propositions, and reaching as our conclusion a 
conjunctive denial of the original alternants. Thus: 

< ~ p) < ~ (p V r) s (~ p ~ r) 

If ~ / then ~ s and if ~ / then ~ q 
If ~ s then ~ r and if ~ q then ~ p 
Therefore ~ p and also ~ r (neither p nor r) 

Or, given the destructive dilemma: 

h [ n < (p r)](p < q)(r < s)(q A s) < 

If n then both /> and r 

If p then 7 and if r then s 

Not both q and J (either ~ q or ~ j) 

Therefore ~ n 



h n [n < (p r)](/> < q)(r < s) < (q s) 


If n then both p and r 

If/) then q and if r then s 

Therefore both q and s (neither ~ q nor ~ j) 

This is all obvious enough. But let us suppose that in 
the constructive dilemma,/) and rare undeniable, exhaus- 
tive alternants. In such a case the 'conjunctive dilemma* 
can be used as an indirect way of supporting the origi- 
nal conclusion; for the conclusion of the conjunctive 
dilemma is impossible. Used thus, the method is called 
Reductio ad Absurdum: an inverted dilemma. This may be 
illustrated with a formal dilemma, so that the alternative 
premise shall be genuinely undeniable. 

Given the formal constructive full dilemma: 

h (/> V ~ />)(/) < ?)(~/> < s)(q < i)(s </)</ 

Either/) or ~/> 

If/> then q and if ~/> then s 

If y then / and if s then / 

Therefore / 

Reductio ad Absurdum^ to reach the same conclusion (/) 

Assume: ~t 

If ^ / then ^ ^ and if ~ t then ~ q 

If ~ s then /> and if ~ q then ~/> 

Therefore if ^ / then both p and ~ 

Which is impossible. 

Therefore / 


Disregarding the ambiguities, we may apply this method 
to the previous argument proving that capital punishment 
cannot be defended: 

Assume that capital punishment may be defended. If so, 
then we are justified in putting criminals to death; and if so, 
murder is a crime. But if we are justified in putting criminals 
to death it is right to kill another human being; and if murder 
is a crime it is not right to kill another human being. Therefore 
if capital punishment may be defended it is both right and not 
right to kill another human being. Which is impossible. There- 
fore, capital punishment cannot be defended. 



We have in the last chapter been dealing with rela- 
tions between the truth or falsity of one proposition and 
the truth or falsity of another or other propositions. 
We have not yet clearly raised the question of how we 
can determine whether any proposition is itself true. But 
this question, it has already been pointed out, is not 
the first question that should be asked about a proposi- 
tion: before wondering whether a proposition is true, we 
should be clear about what it means. One of the first 
steps in such a clarification is to determine whether the 
proposition is primarily factual, normative, or structural* 

In the present chapter we are concerned with factual 
propositions. However, as we saw in Chapter II, these 
contain always not only some reference (however indirect) 
to the given, to sense data, but an interpretation of the 
given with reference to a structure which goes beyond the 
momentarily given,. Their truth is subject to verification; 
that is, is bound up with the possibilities of future ex- 
perience. This is the case even with what seems to be the 
recording of a simple 'fact/ When I say, "This sweater 
is red/' I may mean no more than, "This sweater looks 
red to me"; and if so there is no more to be said, since I 
have presented the only available evidence. But as a rule 
I mean more than this, particularly if an occasion arises, 
as it might when purchasing a sweater, for questioning 
the statement. I should mean not merely that it looks red 
to me, but that other people of normal eyesight, looking 



at it under ordinary light, would say that it looked red 
to them. I should, moreover, expect it to look gray under 
a green light, or purple under a blue light. The situation 
would seldom call for these tests; but if it did, and if 
they were not met, I should conclude that I had been 
mistaken, that the sweater was not in fact red. 

It does not, however, need so unlikely an example to 
convince us that facts are not often simply 'facts/ that 
in every factual proposition there is an element of inter- 
pretation, theory, and structure. We know after very 
little thought how easily our interests, prejudices, and 
emotions influence us to accept one explanation or belief 
rather than another. It is much easier to establish the 
truth of the corruption and deceit of an enemy, competitor, 
or opponent than of a friend. It is doubtful that an evo- 
lutionary hypothesis would have been seriously thought 
of if man did not seem to appear as the most excellent 
product. It is far less difficult to discover what we are 
looking for, what we want to find, than what we have no 
interest in. Judicial theory and practice make a distinc- 
tion between testimonial or 'direct/ evidence and cir- 
cumstantial or 'indirect* evidence; but testimony itself 
involves the assumptions that the witness has not erred in 
either observation or memory, and is trying to tell the 
truth. That these assumptions are seldom fully justified 
any complicated trial will show. 

Every factual or descriptive proposition is, then, a 
hypothesis, a more or less tentative affirmation which 
might at least conceivably be further verified, and which 
is to be rejected or modified if negative evidence turns up. 
A recognition of the tentative character of all factual 
propositions is sometimes taken to mean that factual 
'truth* is entirely relative, and that the attainment of 
factual certainty is impossible. In a sense this follows, 
but not in the sense that might at first b$ understood. 


The rejection or modification of a hypothesis does not 
necessarily mean that the hypothesis was * untrue/ This 
seeming paradox may be explained by the following prin- 
ciple: the truth of a factual proposition has no meaning 
apart from the evidence upon which the proposition is , 
based) whether or not that evidence is explicitly stated. 
New evidence creates a new situation. If the older factual 
proposition, or hypothesis, is not suitable with reference 
to this new situation, it may be modified or rejected, and 
what is in effect a new hypothesis may be substituted. 
But we may still say that if correctly formulated the older 
hypothesis was and 'remains true with reference to the 
situation it was meant to cover. 

We may illustrate the hypothetical nature of factual 
propositions, and the formation and testing of factual 
hypotheses by a more extended example. Suppose that 
a detective, called on a case, enters a certain room in a 
certain house. He will be confronted by a mass of sense- 
data which he will begin automatically and unconsciously 
interpreting. Most of the material for interpretation he 
will immediately (and probably unconsciously) reject as 
irrelevant. The grounds of relevancy will be formed by 
his profession and its general interests, the preconcep- 
tions arising from the mysterious telephone call of five 
minutes before, etc. If he is a good detective, he will 
be willing to reconsider at all times his criteria of -rele- 
vance, but in all kinds of empirical reasoning the problem 
can be made precise only by elimination. The scientist 
in his laboratory, for most purposes, disregards the beauty 
or ugliness of the subject of his experiment, his own feel- 
ings, the whistling going on outside, the position of the 
stars. Just so, the detective will notice only a minor 
fraction of what in the room might be noticed. 

He sees lying in the middle of the floor a woman in 
ji evening gown, with a small hoie in the middle of her 


forehead smeared with blood. This is his first big fact. 
His problem is not epistemological; he does not doubt 
the 'evidence of his senses/ nor wonder whether what he 
sees is part of the real, objective world. His problem is a 
practical one, and he accepts the fact as a starting point 
in his investigation. If put into words, his perception 
would probably be, "Here is a woman who has been 
murdered by gunfire a short time ago." This is of course 
an interpretation; later evidence may suggest that actu- 
ally the woman had been poisoned and that the gunshot 
was a blind. If the detective is intelligent he will be ready 
to revise his 'facts' in the light of future evidence; but he 
must start somewhere, and a murdered woman together 
with his professional interest gives a clear problem a fairly 
good send-off. The importance of his professional interest 
should not be underestimated, for it is this combined with 
the facts that set the problem, and test the relevance of 
hypotheses concerning it. A clergyman, for example, in 
the same situation, might be concerned chiefly with the 
moral wrongness of murder, an aspect irrelevant from the 
point of view of the detective. 

The detective continues to look around. He discovers 
a gun not far from the woman on the floor, and two wine 
glasses on the table. These, too, seem relevant facts. 
Later investigation discloses that on the gun and on one 
of the wine glasses are the fingerprints of a man named 
Smith. This suggests a more precise hypothesis: not only 
has the woman been murdered, but murdered by Smith. 
Possible alternatives still remain open, and the investiga- 
tion continues. Among a great many more discoveries 
there come to light additional facts which seem to be of 
importance: Smith had been in love with the woman, but 
had been rejected the day before the alleged murder; 
Smith was the chief beneficiary in her will, but on the day 
of the murder she had been talking to her lawyer about 


changing the will; Smith is known as a remarkably good 
shot; the wine left in the glasses is identified as the same 
vintage Smith usually drinks. The detective concludes 
finally that he has sufficient evidence on which to arrest 
Smith for the murder of the woman, and he does so. 

A jury must now decide whether the detective's hy- 
pothesis is a good one, whether his factual proposition is 
'true/ It seems convincing; but perhaps the maid killed 
the woman. A series of explanations for the facts might 
then be found somewhat as follows. Smith did indeed 
drink the wine with the woman, but left early; he lent the 
maid his gun on the way out; he and the woman had drunk 
the wine as a sign of forgiveness for the quarrel of the 
day before; she was going to call her lawyer the next 
day to tell him the old will should stand. Or perhaps it 
was suicide; in despair at the breaking off of their affair, 
the woman had pulled Smith's gun from his pocket and 
shot herself; Smith, frightened, had fled. On what 
grounds should the jury decide among the various possible 
hypotheses? Or, more generally, what are the require- 
ments for a good hypothesis? Certain of these may be 
summarized roughly as follows. We shall take up some 
of them and others later in this chapter and following 
chapters, from different points of view. 

(1) Comprehension of all relevant facts. The hypoth- 
esis should provide an explanation for all the relevant 
facts, or at least for more than can be done by any other 
suggested hypothesis. Thus, in the above case, suicide 
makes it difficult to explain why Smith's fingerprints and 
not the woman's were found on the gun; also the fact that 
Smith is a good shot does not fit in. It should be observed 
that 'relevance' is partly question-begging. Smith's 
shooting ability may not be in the least relevant. And 
other facts not taken into consideration might be very 
relevant indeed Smith's religion, or his known moral 


habits. In every investigation relevance is largely deter- 
mined by the interests at stake, by the purpose, avowed 
or implicit, of the investigation. A modern psychologist 
does not deal with the objective reference of intuition of 
God or of non-physical reality, which for the psychologist 
is not relevant; the only aspect of the intuition handled 
by the psychologist is the 'mental' or ' psychological' con- 
dition which is involved. Every scientist rules out the 
relevance of 'errors of observation* to the truth of his 

(2) Consistency. The preferred hypothesis should pro- 
vide the most consistent explanation for the facts. There 
should be, first, an internal consistency, whereby the 
chains of reasoning and observation linking together the 
facts do so as intimately as possible. The ideal of in- 
ternal consistency is furnished by logic and mathematics, 
but in factual matters, we should be able to give a con- 
sistent account in terms of a temporal sequence as well 
as of a logical order. The maid-murderer hypothesis 
would make the temporal sequence hard to arrange prop- 
erly. Furthermore, the various events would not exhibit 
any close relations: there would seem to be no connection 
between Smith's drinking the wine with the woman, and 
his handing the maid the gun. Again, none of the subsid- 
iary explanations suggested by the hypothesis should be 
contradictory. If it were established that the murder 
must have been committed in the room the detective first 
entered, and on that night; and if it were independently 
established that Smith at that time had been on a boat 
in the middle of the Atlantic; then, this contradiction 
would rule out Smith as murderer. From the point of 
view of the older hypothesis that heavy bodies go down 
there is an inconsistency in the behavior of airplanes; and 
this inconsistency constitutes an additional reason for 
qualifying or rejecting the older hypothesis as an explana- 


tion of facts now at our disposal (though it was true 
enough for the facts it covered). 

But the hypothesis must be consistent also externally 
with the general character of experience, or at least 
with experience within the realm of discourse in question. 
In detective novels, murderers and criminals are always 
doing * incredible' and 'monstrous' deeds. But in actu- 
ality detectives would scarcely ever solve mysteries if on 
the whole murderers and criminals didn't act fairly much 
alike, and if they didn't conform in the most general 
respects to mankind at large. Of the three suggested 
hypotheses to explain the murder of the woman, the Smith 
hypothesis is undoubtedly most consistent with the way 
people do usually act. Indeed, as the case is stated, this 
would be the chief reason for rejecting the suicide hy- 
pothesis, which from most other points of view provides 
a rather adequate explanation, and one which omits none 
of the clues (that is, relevant facts). An interesting op- 
eration of this requirement of external consistency was 
provided by the Michelson-Morley experiment. This ex- 
periment seemed to show that there was no difference in 
the velocity of light no matter what the direction was 
in which it was measured. That it did show this was ac- 
cepted by most scientists as a. fact, though naturally it 
was a fact in which a complex interpretation was involved. 
This particular experiment could easily and obviously 
have been explained by supposing that the earth was at 
rest in space (with the sun, planets, and stars revolving 
around it), since then there would be no reason to expect 
a difference in velocity. But, though this explanation 
would have been internally consistent, i.e. it would have 
linked together the facts of this experiment, it would have 
been inconsistent, for reasons into which we do not need 
to enter, with the generally accepted structure of classical 
physics and astronomy. This explanation was therefore 


rejected, and two alternatives remained open: either 
the experimental findings had been misinterpreted, or 
there was something wrong with the general structure of 
classical physics and astronomy. By most scientists the 
latter alternative was accepted, and this was one of the 
outstanding experiments that influenced the formation of 
the theory of relativity. 

It should be observed, however, that the requirement 
of external consistency can be readily overemphasized. 
It is a rather extreme dogmatism to suppose that an ad- 
equate interpretation of experience must be consistent 
through and through. 

(3) Simplicity. The preferred hypothesis, generally 
speaking, should be the one which explains all the relevant 
facts most simply. Here again we meet a question-begging 
term, since we must define * simple' with reference to the 
type of hypothesis which we do in practice prefer. How- 
ever, there is an obvious point of view from which the 
Smith-murderer hypothesis is the simplest of the three in 
the case we have considered. It brings in the fewest 
assumptions about motives, emotions, coincidences, etc. 
Under the maid-murderer hypothesis, several separate 
hypotheses would have to be brought in to make the ex- 
planations convincing (to explain, for instance, why Smith 
gave the maid the gun, how Smith and the woman 
managed to make up the quarrel, why the maid's finger- 
prints weren't on the gun); but all the facts group natu- 
rally under the one hypothesis that Smith was the murderer. 

In a murder case, where the reasoning is close to fairly 
direct observation, the requirement of simplicity is not 
of great importance and is often misleading; but in the 
hypotheses of developed science, which are far removed 
from direct observation, and in which structure predomi- 
nates, simplicity is a chief concern, and becomes capable 
of more precise formulation. Scientific simplicity is first 


of all mathematical simplicity. When Copernicus sug- 
gested his hypothesis that the earth moved around the 
sun and not the sun around the earth, there were no facts 
(including observed astronomical data) which it explained 
better than the former hypothesis, and many which it 
did not explain so well (the common-sense evidence of our 
eyes seeing the sun go around, and our feet sensing the 
solidity and stability of the earth, etc.). But the Coperni- 
can hypothesis made the complicated geometric systems 
of cycles and epi-cycles by which the data were explained 
mathematically very much more simple. Indeed it might 
well be argued that mathematical simplicity and harmony 
are the first and most important requirements of the 
theoretic aspect of modern science. And if we do not 
grant the universal validity of this requirement, we might 
without undue obscurantism be led to modify the more 
extreme theoretic conclusions of science. 

Scientific simplicity also demands the smallest number 
of assumptions and undefined terms whigh will explainable 
relevant facts, a requirement known as the Principle of 
Parsimony. Thus, Newton's 'universal law of gravita- 
tion* was to be preferred to older hypotheses, because 
through one mysterious property (gravitation) and one 

mathematical relation involving the variable , a 

r 2 

large number of motions could be explained which before 
required separate properties and laws the tendency of 
heavy bodies to fall, of light bodies to go up, of planets 
to move around the sun, etc. Or, again, through the 
developed notion of hydrogen ion concentration the ob- 
served behavior of a countless number of acids can be 
explained; whereas once a large group of independent as- 
sumptions and hypotheses were needed. This requirement 
is a derivative of the general requirement of ' mathematical 
simplicity': the fewer the assumptions and undefined 


terms, the more the field is adapted to harmonious, simple, 
and ordered mathematical treatment. Thirdly, scientific 
simplicity demands that the explanations of events be in 
terms of what is considered ' physical reality/ If a peasant 
saw a train go by, and said that a devil made it go, there 
would certainly be a point of view from which his explana- 
tion was far simpler than the energy transformation for- 
mulas by which a scientist might account for the train's 
movement, but that point of view the scientist rules out. 

(4) The convergence of evidence. In complicated 
matters, a good hypothesis is usually supported not by a 
single linked chain of facts and interpretations, but by 
convergent or cumulative evidence. Thus, one approach 
might be abandoned, and the hypothesis might still hold; 
and in any case the validity of the converged evidence is 
much greater than the mere sum of each approach con- 
sidered separately. To take an elementary example: the 
factual proposition "I hear a cricket " would be supported 
if I later saw the cricket, and still more strongly supported 
if I held the cricket in my hand. Or if I advanced the 
hypothesis while fishing, "I've got a strike," new evidence 
in the form of seeing the fish and preferably getting him 
in my net would be needed even to make the original 
hypothesis reasonably probable. In the detective problem 
developed above, all the cited evidence unites in pointing 
to Smith, a strong factor in establishing Smith's guilt. 
Each independent clue might be easily explained away, 
but all of them together present a very solid front. But it 
should be noted that here once more the rather obscure 
factor of 'relevance' enters in. There are perhaps other 
clues and many of them which the detective never dis- 
covers and whose possibility he never, considers, which 
would more than outweigh all the rest. In any factual 
problem this possibility will always remain open. 

A modified form of the theory of evolution is a good 


example of how this accumulation operates in science. To 
support the view that organic species were not all sepa- 
rately created, but are at least partially interrelated, 
evidence can be drawn from such diverse fields as: 
(i) paleontology; (ii) comparative anatomy; (iii) the 
study of vestigial organs; (iv) embryology; ^geographi- 
cal distribution; (vi) the experience of stock breeders and 
gardeners; (vii) the controlled experiments on plants and 
animals, instituted by De Vries. It is doubtful that any 
of the lines of evidence taken singly could have estab- 
lished the theory so firmly; but taken together, they 
convinced most scientists. 

This example serves to bring out an important qualifi- 
cation : the converging lines of evidence are by no means 
always of equal value. Without the other lines of evi- 
dence, (iii) and (iv) would be of practically no significance. 
Or, in the detective's problem, the evidence of two or 
three dependable eye-witnesses might outbalance all the 
'circumstantial' evidence; and a definitely established 
alibi would cancel both testimony and evidence. In 
advanced sciences, however, we never get anything cor- 
responding to perfect alibis, since interpretation and struc- 
ture have so far transcended the initial data; and the 
convergence of evidence from differing approaches be- 
comes therefore of greater importance. 

(6) Amenability to prediction. A hypothesis tends 
to be supported when, reasoning from it, predictions are 
made and later verified. In simple cases such predic- 
tions are often not articulated, but they are implicit in 
every factual proposition and capable of articulation. 
When I see a friend of mine walking toward me, I am mak- 
ing a tacit prediction of future sequences of experience: 
that I shall continue to 'see' him as he approaches, that he 
will continue to 'look like' my friend, that he will speak 
to me if I speak to him, etc. As a rule there will be no 


occasion to make these predictions explicit, as we saw in 
the case of the red sweater. But if one of them should 
fail, if for instance the person should get nearer and no 
longer look like my friend, I should conclude that my 
'perception* had been mistaken. When the detective 
concludes on the basis of certain facts that Smith is the 
murderer, he implicitly predicts that future facts will 
fit in with his hypothesis, that Smith will not be able to 
establish an alibi, that Smith may be got to confess, that 
so far as Smith's movements on the night of the murder 
can be traced, nothing will be discovered to contradict the 
theory that he was in the murder room at the proper 
hour. It will be observed that prediction plays its part 
in hypotheses referring to the past and present just as 
much as in those referring to the future. The past is 
known to us only by the traces it has left in the present, 
and which may be unearthed in the future. The woman 
was murdered in the past, but the detective discovers 
clues to the murder in the future. 

In science prediction is of the greatest importance, 
and is controlled and made exact by experimental meth- 
ods. If the atomic theory of matter holds, chemical 
substances will combine in definite proportions. Labora- 
tory analysis can show that chemical substances do so 
combine. On the basis of the relativity equations, Ein- 
stein predicted a certain shift in the observed position of 
certain stars during an eclipse of the sun, different from 
the position predicted with the help of classical field 
physics. During the eclipse of 1919 the star photographs 
seemed to agree more closely with Einstein's predictions 
than with predictions based on the classical equations 
(though there is still some dispute among astronomers on 
the correct interpretation of the photographs), and this 
result had a great influence in helping to establish the 
theory of relativity. 


Quite apart from any theoretical importance, the im- 
mense practical importance of successful prediction is 
evident, since through it science can be applied. We 
have, indeed, seen throughout this discussion that all of 
the theoretical requirements for factual propositions are 
open to criticism, but no one can deny their practical 
significance. This has led some philosophers to consider 
this practical significance the sole criterion of the 'truth* 
of factual propositions. This conclusion is inadequate, 
though it is useful in counter-balancing the theoretic 
claims that are sometimes made for scientific method. 
How far the requirements that have here been outlined 
are applicable to experience in general, and how rigidly 
they are to be interpreted even within science itself, are 
subjects to which we shall more than once return. 


In all knowledge we take for granted certain general 
connections. Even when we seem to infer from particular 
to particular by analogy my dog has resemblances in 
structures and behavior to me, and therefore probably 
feels pain when run over by an automobile we make 
tacitly a general judgment: there is a general connection 
between certain types of physiological makeup and be- 
havior and the possibility of the conscious experience of 
pain. Going back to the detective: seeing the woman 
with a hole in her forehead he infers that she has been 
shot. The inference is derived from a general connection 
in his past experience between such holes and shooting. 
To gain entrance to a house we push a button near the 
door, confident in a general connection between pressing 
such buttons, the ringing of an interior bell, and the arrival 
of someone to open the door. As we have seen, the 
psychological basis of our knowledge of general connec- 


tions is found in our tendency to form habitual associa- 
tions. These, however, unless controlled, are dangerously 
misleading. "The human understanding is of its own 
nature prone to suppose the existence of more order and 
regularity in the world than it finds" 1 or, perhaps, a 
differently arranged order. 

The human understanding when it has once adopted an 
opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agree- 
able to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. 
And though there be a greater number and weight of instances 
to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and 
despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects; 
in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the 
authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate. And 
therefore it was a good answer that was made by one who when 
they showed him hanging in a temple a picture of those who had 
paid their vows as having escaped shipwreck, and would have 
him say whether he did not now acknowledge the power of the 
gods "Aye," asked he again, "but where are they painted 
that were drowned after their vows?" And such is the way of 
all superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine 
judgments, or the like: wherein men, having a delight in such 
vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where 
they fail, though this happen much oftener, neglect and pass 
them by. 2 

Uncontrolled, our habitual associations give rise to the 
half-truths of common sense "Birds of a feather flock 
together/' "Experience is the best teacher," "The Re- 
publican party brings prosperity," "Never tell a lie," 
"Honest is the best policy" often adequate enough for 
ordinary activities, but unable to meet situations of any 

When generalization is guided by systematic control 
it may be called induction. The methods of induction 
have never been satisfactorily formularized. This is 

1 Bacon, Novum Organum, Aph. 45. * Ibid. Aph. 46. 


Dartly due to the nature of induction, which is too compli- 
:ated to be reduced to formula; but partly to certain 
nisconceptions about the aims of induction. Induction 
ioes not arrive, even ideally, at propositions having an 
i priori validity, like those of logic and mathematics. It 
seeks to make more accurate statements of general connec- 
tions among events, and its results are always subject to 
possible modification in the future. 

The basis of induction is to be discovered in certain 
:haracteristics of experience, and certain assumptions that 
ve make about future experience. 

(1) The given (sense data) is such that it contains 
solable elements which we can be aware of as 'universals,' 
:hat is, as the same as, resembling, related to, similar 
:o other elements of the given, in short capable of being 
:lassified with other elements in some way. When we say, 
'This looks red/' we are stating that there is an element 
^the ' looks-red') in our present experience like certain 
>ther elements in past experience. If every element were 
itterly unlike every other, there would be no possibility 
>f knowledge, and experience would have no meaning. 
Such a condition, however, cannot even be imagined. 

(2) We find, in the succession of the elements of the 
riven, some sort of order. It is not necessary to postulate 
:hat this order is of any particular sort, or that it is at 
ill coherent or complete. We are continually searching 
: or an order, some order, and if we do not find it in one 
;vay we try another, for practical purposes disregarding 
:hose elements which are not orderly. The devices at our 
lisposal in ordering the given, the various methods of 
:lassification, the applications of mathematics, etc., are 
ngenious enough to order sufficiently what is, on any 
lonest account, rather chaotic. Through our interpre- 
:ations we build up our knowledge of a relatively stable 


(3) We are able, for the purposes of analysis if with no 
other justification, to isolate aspects of reality as 'particu- 
lars.' These particulars may be, on occasion, events, 
objects, things, properties, organisms, or whatever it is 
we are treating as a unit, whether as a unit to analyze 
or to relate to other units. Now, and this is of greatest 
importance, induction is not concerned with particulars 
as suchy but with particulars as instances of a universal, 
as members of a class or system. Inductive methods are 
devised not to deal with this sea-urchin here now, or this 
chemical compound now in this test tube, but with this 
sea-urchin as an example of sea-urchins in general, or 
this compound as a typical instance of all such com- 

Induction is not involved in cases where all the particu- 
lars can be dealt with directly. Thus, if I had ten bricks 
before me and stated the proposition, "These ten bricks 
are red," it would be a factual proposition, but induction 
would not be in question. Its truth would depend simply 
on the accuracy of my observation. But if from this 
observation I conclude, "All bricks are red," I should be 
making an inductive generalization which would be, of 
course, false. The problem of induction may be summed 
up as follows: From known propositions about known 
particulars taken as members of a class or as belonging 
to a system, to reach propositions holding for the other 
particulars belonging to the class or the system. 

The first step is therefore the realization that a particu- 
lar lends itself to generalization; that it is not simply a 
here-now, but might belong to a system or a class in 
which there were other particulars. Without this every 
event would be unique, and no generalization would be 

To common sense, the next refinement in generalization 
would seem to be dependent upon the frequency of associ- 


ation. Common sense would no doubt be willing to accept 
some such postulate as: "If a has always been accom- 
panied by b in the past, there is a probability that it 
will be in the future, and the probability is the higher 
the oftener the association has occurred in the past." 
Reasoning on this basis we might conclude that the sun 
will rise tomorrow morning, or that all normal men have 
two legs. But with apparently equal justification a native 
of Central Africa might conclude that all men are black, 
or a small boy that all older people knew a great deal. 
Logicians therefore generally attach little importance to 
the mere multiplication of instances. However, their 
deprecation is not altogether deserved. Certainly it is 
by this method that we gain most of our common-sense 
knowledge. And the Central African's generalization is 
undoubtedly probable on the evidence at his disposal. 
His mistake lies in his judgment of the system or class into 
which the particulars upon which he has based his generali- 
zation fit. There has been present a constant factor, c y 
the property of being a native of Central Africa, which 
he has not taken into account. This restricts the scope 
of the generalization which he can properly make to: 
" All men who are also natives of Central Africa are black," 
and this generalization is highly probable. Again, from 
the fact that every apple we see on the top of a full barrel 
is good, we do not conclude that every apple in the barrel 
is good. There is a constant factor present in each ob- 
served instance, namely 'being on top of the barrel/ 
Previous generalizations about the nature of apple dealers 
teach us that this factor is relevant to any generalization 
about all the apples. Ideally though actually it is 
never possible a generalization should take into account 
all relevant factors. If, then, we wish to arrive at a 
generalization involving a known factor, a (in the above 
case, ' man ') and some one other factor, , our procedure 


will go on from the naively observed past correlations 
in which a figured to the careful elimination of irrelevant 
factors. If, for instance, we wish to reach precise generali- 
zations about colds, it will not be enough to recall our 
observation that colds usually are more common in winter 
and bad weather. We shall be led from observation to 
experiment, to the methods which have been developed 
in science, which is the most notable development of 
factual reasoning. But before outlining certain aspects 
of scientific method, we shall consider briefly another type 
of reasoning closely allied to if not to be identified 
with induction. 

The use of analogy. If we know the various character- 
istics of hens' eggs; and if we see a pile of objects in a 
grocery looking something like hens' eggs and labeled 
ducks' eggs; and if we conclude that they might also be 
cooked and eaten; we shall be reasoning by analogy. If 
a scientist discovers that deficient secretion of insulin 
causes diabetes in sheep, and reasons that this may also 
be the cause of diabetes in humans, he too is reasoning 
by analogy. The essential feature of analogical reasoning 
is the inference from known resemblances to other resem- 
blances not directly known. This reasoning is obviously 
always present in our dealings with the actual world. 
Upon it is based the possibility of classification, and in 
fact our whole handling of experience; what we know now 
is perceived to be like what we have known in some re- 
spects and we infer that the resemblance extends to other 
respects; thus we make use of what the past has taught us 
to deal with the present and future. A surgeon knows that 
a patient is like other patients in outward form, and infers 
that he will find his appendix where he has found it in the 
others; an insurance salesman discovers that a prospect is 
married, and infers that he will be susceptible to the same 
selling approach as in the case of other married men; 


an astronomer knows that certain shifts in the spectrum 
stand for the presence of certain elements on the earth, 
and infers that they do likewise on the sun or the stars. 

What is taken for granted in analogical reasoning? 
The most elementary principle seems to be the following: 
"If a resembles b in any way whatsoever, there is some 
probability, however slight, that a resembles b in some 
further way." Stated more generally : "If certain proper- 
ties of a particular (or group of particulars) are known, and 
if any other particular (or group of particulars) is known 
to have some of these properties, it will probably have 
others. " The problem is of course to infer correctly 
what others. We know from our past mistakes how often 
our analogies are unjustified: because someone has a 
pleasant face we infer by analogy that he is honest; be- 
cause a book is by a certain author we infer that it is worth 
reading; because a bottle is labeled "Grade A milk" we 
infer that its contents are safe to drink. 

It should be noted that there is no analogical problem 
when we can get our knowledge by direct observation and 
experiment; the problem arises when we wish to extend 
observation and experiment. Thus, scientists have ana- 
lyzed many anatomical and physiological resemblances 
between men and certain of the higher mammals. From 
this they have inferred analogically that men and these 
higher mammals resemble each other in the property of 
having been descended from common ancestors. It may 
be remarked that the probability of this conclusion, on 
these grounds alone, is so small as to be almost negligible. 
It could be countered with an analogical argument of at 
least equal validity: men differ from these higher mam- 
mals in perhaps as many (or more) specifiable ways as they 
resemble them, and therefore probably differ in ancestry. 

This last example will serve to show the close relation 
between induction and analogy. If a generalization could 


be made probable, correlating certain types of anatomi- 
cal similarity and common ancestry, the probability that 
the scientists' conclusion held would be increased. But 
conversely analogy enters into induction: only through 
analogy do we apprehend to what particulars a generaliza- 
tion is relevant. Analogy is connotative: from certain 
properties a and b share to make inferences about other 
properties of a and b; induction, denotative: from a 
known connection between certain particulars to make 
inferences about the other particulars belonging to the 
same class or system. The logical problems of analogy 
are thus closely similar to those of induction, though they 
are approached from diverse points of view. 


Science begins in ordinary inductive generalizations. 
But science wishes to make its generalizations more 
accurate, and applicable to wider and wider classes of 
phenomena. It must therefore attempt to avoid the dif- 
ficulties suggested in the last section, to take account of all 
relevant factors, to note exceptions and 'negative in- 
stances/ In order to achieve these ends observation gives 
way to experiment. There is no sharp line between them: 
experiment begins when we attempt consciously to control 
the conditions of our observations. 

The aim of experiment, at least in its early stages, is 
said to be the discovery of the causes of phenomena. 
Cause is a notion familiar to common sense, but from a 
methodological point of view (with which we are now 
concerned) it is far from clear. We say that striking a 
match is the cause of the flame, over-population the cause 
of wars, pneumonia the cause of death. What do we 
mean when we say this? Let us put aside until Chapter 
VII the idea of cause as a mysterious Agency* or 'power* 


forcing events to take place, and try to discover a meaning 
of cause related to the scheme of inductive generalization. 

A commuter misses his train one morning l and asks 
himself why he missed it, that is, "What was the cause of 
my missing this train ?" He compares his watch with the 
station clock and discovers that his watch is five minutes 
slow. He feels then that the question is answered, that 
the cause is the slowness of his watch. But what if he 
extended his analysis? The train was scheduled to leave 
at 8.00 A.M. His house was ten minutes walk away, and 
he left his house when his watch read 7.50, allowing suf- 
ficient time, as he thought. True enough, if his watch 
had been correct he would have caught the train. But also 
he would have caught the train if the train had been five 
minutes late. Or he would have caught it if he had left 
at 7.45 by his watch. Or if he had bought a house only 
half as far from the station, and the other factors 
e.g., leaving at 7.50 by his watch had remained the 
same. Or if the railroad engineers had built the line 
nearer his house; or if he had left after his first cup of 
coffee instead of after his second; or if he hadn't stayed 
up late the night before and been too groggy to shave 
quickly; etc. Which event is to be judged correctly the 
cause of missing the train: the slow watch, the on-time 
train, the position of his house, the drinking of the second 
cup of coffee, the decision of the engineers? 

It will be observed that a question of temporal sequence 
seems to enter into the determination of a causal relation. 
All these events fit into some kind of temporal order. This 
is seen even more clearly in a simple situation such as 
striking a match: the striking, the supposed cause, pre- 
cedes in time the flame, the supposed effect. However, 
no one wishes to believe that cause is merely a matter of 
temporal succession: all of the events the commuter con- 

1 Example adapted from Meyerson, Identity and Reality. 


siders preceded in time his missing the train, but he does 
not judge any of them to be the cause on that account 
alone. Countless other events also preceded it, such as 
the arrival of the milkman, the Civil War, and the crea- 
tion of the world. Nor is the event which immediately 
preceded missing the train any more useful: innumerable 
other events immediately preceded it, including the death 
of several hundred Chinese from starvation, and perhaps 
the formation of a new star in space. 

If we symbolize 'missing the train' by b y can we say 
that a is the cause of b if a precedes b in time and is 
the sufficient condition of b (that is, if the relation 'if a 
then b ' holds) ? . This seems to be near what common 
sense often means by cause: if the watch is slow, the com- 
muter will miss his train; if the match is struck, flame 
will follow though, as analysis shows, these conditions, 
because of the other factors involved, are not genuinely 
sufficient. But in any case more than this is meant, be- 
cause, as we have seen, many other events have preceded 
b in time and may equally well be sufficient conditions 
of b. We wish to know not only the sufficient but also 
the necessary condition of b y that event without which b 
would not have occurred; an a which will fit also into 
the relation, 'if not-a then not-^/ The requirements 
may be summed up in the following definition: "The 
cause of a given event is that event (or group of events) 
in whose presence, and only in whose presence, the given 
event occurs." But this is an application to the physical 
world of the relation of 'logical equivalence' which was 
discussed in the last chapter, and we may therefore say: 
a is the cause of b if a precedes b in time, and the relation 
a 55 b holds. 

The causal relation becomes thus an ideal type of 
inductive generalization; and once again it should be ob- 
served that not this particular a and this particular b 


are in question, but this a and this b as instances of a 
class or system of a's and 's. History, not science, deals 
with particulars as such. The relation is ideal because, 
though we may approximate it more and more accurately, 
we can never know with certainty that we have discovered 
a case in which it holds. In the case of the late watch 
and missing the train it obviously does not. The late 
watch is neither the necessary nor the sufficient condition 
of missing the train. Nevertheless, accepting the late 
watch as cause is of great practical importance to the 
commuter, since it is & possible condition of lateness which 
he can easily control, whereas he cannot change the posi- 
tion of the railway line. It is useful to know that striking 
a match is the cause of flame, because we thereby know 
how to get a flame when we want one. But we realize 
that this relation is by no means necessary; there are 
numerous factors such as the presence of a high wind, the 
absence of oxygen, dampness, faulty match boxes, that 
must be taken into account in the formulation of any 
causal laws relating the striking of matches and flames. 

Experimental methods are designed to eliminate the 
inaccuracies of common-sense generalization, and they 
carry out under control methods latent in ordinary ob- 
servation. The supposed causal relation between striking 
a match and flame is not necessary because it requires the 
presence of certain constant factors such as sufficient 
oxygen. The situation is more complicated, and a first 
step toward accuracy must be the isolation of constant 
factors, and the determination of their relevance or lack 
of relevance to the causal connection that is being investi- 
gated. The analysis this requires may be carried out more 
successfully when experimental control is possible. 

If something suggests to a scientist a causal connection 
between a and ^, he will study a number of instances in 
which a and b occur together but where the attendant 


circumstances are varied as much as possible. It will 
thus be demonstrated that the connection between a and 
b does not depend upon any of the circumstances that 
vary. If, for instance, a scientist suspects a connection 
between a certain type of germ he has isolated and malaria, 
he will be more convinced that this connection holds if in 
every case of malaria the germ is found, no matter what 
the previous history of the patient, the color of his skin 
and eyes, the condition of his heart, the haemoglobin 
content of his blood, etc. This method may be summed 
up as follows: "In investigating a y the circumstances in 
which various instances of a's occurrence differ may be 
eliminated from any statement of causal connection be- 
tween a and some #, and x must be sought from the analy- 
sis of the circumstances which remain the same." Of 
course, later investigation may suggest that x is to be 
sought in a further analysis of the circumstances that 
were at first eliminated. Pneumonia occurs in all sorts 
of weather, and we may therefore rule out weather as the 
cause of pneumonia. Weather may be (and is) a contrib- 
uting factor in making pneumonia more likely; but the 
scientist must narrow down his problem, to get exact 
results on a small scale, before connecting up these results 
more widely. It is, it should be noted, extremely difficult 
to vary properly the attendant circumstances. Scientists 
believed for a long while in the spontaneous creation of life 
in dead organisms before realizing that all the dead organ- 
isms which they examined were exposed to air, and that 
live bacteria are present in air. That we still do and shall 
always similarly overlook such factors is emphasized every 
day in every laboratory. 

A second method in causal analysis, which sums up a 
usual experimental procedure, may be formularized as fol- 
lows: "In investigating a y if two instances occur in one 
of which a is present and in the other a absent, the cir- 


cumstances which are the same in the two instances may 
be eliminated from any statement of causal connection 
between a and some AT, and x must be sought among the 
circumstances in which the instances differ/' This is the 
method suggested in the passage from Bacon quoted above 
(p. 142). Of those who have made vows to the gods some 
have drowned and some have not; therefore saying vows 
to the gods is probably not causally connected with drown- 
ing. This method is used in most scientific research. If a 
physiologist, investigating rickets, studies two rats one 
of which is allowed no sunlight and develops rickets, and 
the other of which gets sunlight and does not develop 
rickets, their diets and general environment remaining 
the same, he is entitled to infer that their diets and general 
environment were probably not causally connected with 
the rickets. Actually, when this experiment was first 
tried, and when it was connected with observations of 
human infants living where they got no sunlight, more 
than this was inferred: namely, that absence of sunlight 
was the cause of rickets. And, in general, this method is 
sometimes supposed to determine causes exactly. This 
supposition is not, however, justified. 

Two boxers are fighting; one hits the other in the solar 
plexus; the other falls to the floor and dies. Are we en- 
titled to say that the blow in the solar plexus is the 'cause' 
of death? We have here a case for the application of this 
method: there are two 'instances' succeeding each other 
in time, in one of which (the progress of the fight up to the 
time of the blow) neither the blow nor death occur, and in 
the other of which (the succeeding few seconds) both blow 
and death occur. The readily ascertainable other factors 
are apparently unchanged the general health of the 
opponents, the presence of people watching them, their 
position in a ring, wearing boxing gloves, etc. We may 
correctly infer that the unchanged factors are probably 


not causally connected with the death. But to say that 
the blow is the cause of death is only a rough approxima- 
tion; it is suitable enough for common-sense purposes, 
but science must analyze more exactly. Undoubtedly 
death succeeded the blow in time, but we mean more than 
this by the causal relation. If they are causally related, 
they are instances of a general connection or law governing 
such blows and such types of death. But 'blows,' and 
* death* are notions too rough to fit into precise laws. 
The events must be analyzed further, into a sequence of 
minute events leading from one to the other: following the 
blow a neural disturbance, the paralysis of certain muscles 
probably including the heart, suffocation due to the failure 
of the heart to beat, etc. A physician might say that the 
cause of death was the suffocation. For events are not 
discrete units: they grow into one another, and there is no 
point at which one finishes and another begins. How we 
separate the sequences of events into definite particulars 
(a y by etc.) will depend largely on the purpose of our anal- 
ysis. For the spectators, calling the blow the cause is 
accurate enough; for the physician perhaps not. 

At an early stage in the investigations it was sufficiently 
accurate to state a causal connection between sunlight 
and rickets. More exact analysis shows that not sunlight 
in general but the ultra-violet rays in sunlight are con- 
nected. It further shows that diet is not irrelevant, but 
that certain foods containing a certain Vitamin' are also 
connected. Cause is a working concept, appropriate to 
the initial stages of an investigation, and serving to make 
a problem more precise. Other things remaining equal, if 
b succeeds a in time, a is the cause of b; through experi- 
ment the other things may be controlled, and the problem 
limited. But other things never do remain equal, and 
a and b need further analysis. Cause, in scientific reason- 
ing, is part of the wider problem of general connection 


according to law. The typical scientific law is not the 
statement of a causal relation (that so-and-so is the cause 
of such-and-such), but the statement, usually in mathe- 
matical form, of a functional relation between certain 
variables. When some of the variables take definite 
values, the others take definite values. The significant 
aspect of Newton's law of gravitation is not to be found 
in the popular notion of a cause, 'gravitation,' pulling 
bodies toward the earth and keeping planets in their path 
around the sun; but in a scientific generalization which 
correlates the behavior of bodies through an equation 
involving the product of their masses and the squares of 
the distances between their centers of mass. 


During the discussion of inductive generalization we 
have been taking for granted certain underlying postulates 
about the nature of the physical world as we come to know 
it. For it is obvious that unless the future were at least 
in some respects like the past, unless physical events were 
more or less orderly in their occurrence, no amount of in- 
dividual observations and experiments would assist us in 
formulating general laws. We could not be sure that the 
observations and experiments applied beyond the particu- 
lar events that they dealt with. Actually, it is true that 
there is no objective certainty that they do so apply. 
Science must therefore postulate that they do; but these 
postulates will be of a special sort, since unless they applied 
science would be impossible, and experience in general 
would be so chaotic as to be meaningless. 

Two most important postulates of scientific method 
may, then, be summed up as follows: 

(i) There is some probability that any given particular 
is connected with some other given particular according to 


some general law. This may be called the postulate of 
the probability of physical determinism. The necessity for 
making this postulate is clear enough, since there would 
be no use looking for laws unless there was some proba- 
bility that there are such laws. We are not required, 
however, to postulate that all particulars are connected 
according to general laws, which is extremely doubtful, 
but merely that science will assume the probability of a 
general law in any situation it investigates. This postu- 
late, therefore, helps to define the field of science: particu- 
lars not so related lie outside of scientific investigation. 

(2) The factors relevant to any statement of general 
connection involving a given particular are limited. This 
is a form of what is sometimes called the postulate of 
the limitation of independent variety. That science must 
accept this postulate is also obvious: in studying any 
given problem the scientist would get nowhere if he had 
to take the whole universe always into account. But it 
should be observed that the limitations are not of any 
one sort or in any one direction; they cannot, that is, be 
defined a priori; but they become clearer as science 
progresses. For science has a history; and the grounds 
of relevance are formed by past experience, but especially 
by the past history of science. A scientist does not begin 
his investigation from the beginning. It is limited for 
him by the whole course of previous investigations. 

This second postulate is the theoretical basis for the 
importance of 'negative instances' and the elimination of 
irrelevancies by controlled experiment. The experimenter 
studying some phenomenon postulates a general connec- 
tion between it and something; the more possibilities he 
eliminates, the greater the probability that the general 
connection will hold in what remains if the possibilities 
are not infinite. If they were infinite, elimination would 
do no good, because anything subtracted from infinity 


leaves infinity still the remainder. There is no reason to 
suppose, however, that in any analysis all irrelevancies 
will be eliminated; the possibilities may be numerous 
beyond enumeration, but so far as they are not regarded 
as infinite, the requirements of scientific method are met. 

A study of the actual procedure of scientific investiga- 
tion shows everywhere the use of this limiting postulate 
in practice. More or less accidentally, some kind of 
connection between eating liver and the increase of the 
haemoglobin blood content in certain organisms is ob- 
served an important connection, since increase of 
haemoglobin relieves or cures pernicious anaemia. But for 
a patient to eat a great amount of liver daily is unappetiz- 
ing. Research analyzes liver into constituents, and elimi- 
nates various of these constituents by the second method 
discussed under causal analysis (p. 152). If there is any 
connection between liver and the production of haemo- 
globin, then, it is to be found in the constituents not 
eliminated. And at the present time patients suffering 
from pernicious anaemia are not forced to eat a great 
amount of liver, but simply a small amount of a definite 
'liver extract/ 

The truth of empirical generalizations can never be 
demonstrated, but by scientific method their probability 
can be increased. It is this that constitutes a chief dis- 
tinction between factual propositions and logical or mathe- 
matical propositions, whose truth depends simply on the 
internal coherence and consistency of the logical or math- 
ematical structure. From the point of view of coherence, 
consistency, and simplicity, science does approach logic 
and mathematics as its ideals; but from other points 
of view science does not approach them, even as limits. 
For no matter how large the structural element in science 
becomes, scientific propositions are factual, and therefore 
are true only with reference to the evidence on which 


they are based; and therefore subject to verification, and 
change if, when conditions would permit it, the verifica- 
tion does not materialize. 

This peculiarity justifies the theoretical importance of 
negative instances, the elimination of irrelevancies, and 
prediction. As we have seen, scientists attach great im- 
portance to successful predictions made from hypotheses. 
Now a prediction is in a sense an implicative proposition 
p < q applied to a temporal sequence in the physical 
world. Accepting p as true, q follows logically; and, 
applied, q may be predicted to occur under certain spatio- 
temporal conditions. To return to an illustration already 
mentioned: "If the atomic theory of matter holds (/>), 
chemical substances will combine in definite proportions 
(q). 99 It can be shown in a laboratory that chemical sub- 
stances do so combine, that q is true (h- q}. But, by 
reference to Chapter IV, we shall see that from the truth 
of y, the truth of p does not logically follow: q < p is not 
implied by the counter-implication p < q. If q turned out 
to be false (^ y), the falsity of p (~ p) would be implied, 
and for that reason, unsuccessful predictions (if they have 
been correctly deduced) can demonstrate the falsity of 
hypotheses. But positive instances, successful predictions, 
can never demonstrate the truth of hypotheses. They do, 
however, increase the probability that the hypothesis is 
true, since they become additional evidence for the 
hypothesis. In science no such simple proposition as 
*P < y* is found. It is always, whether or not so ex- 
pressed: "Ifp has a certain probability on the basis of 
r, s y t . . . (where r, J, / . . . represent the evidence), 
then q." Establishing the truth of q adds q to the evi- 
dence and increases the probability of p. This relation 
is not found in the structure of formal logic, but it is a 
fundamental relation in scientific or any kind of factual 



One of the most striking characteristics of what we 
call Nature is the presence of innumerable phenomena 
which seem to vary in some more or less regular way 
the succession of the seasons, the ebb and flow of the tides, 
the sequence of day and night, the history of organisms 
from birth to maturity to death, are among conspicuous 
examples. Moreover, not only do these phenomena vary 
in a regular way, but the variations of one often seem to 
be connected with the variations of another or others 
the succession of the seasons with the appearance of plants 
in spring, their ripening in summer, their death in au- 
tumn; the ebb and flow of the tides with the changing 
appearances of the moon, etc. Naive observation of such 
functional correlation leads insensibly to what seems to be 
an additional method for establishing causal relations. 
This may be stated roughly as follows: "If a varies in 
some regular manner when b varies in some regular man- 
ner, there is some probability that a and b are causally 
related to each other or both to some third phenomenon. " 
On these grounds we tend to state a connection between 
the tides and the moon; or between certain physiological 
conditions, such as the secretion of ductless glands, and 
'emotions' of which we are conscious; or (as would be 
applied in tuning a violin) between tension and rate of 
vibration; or between the length of a conducting wire and 
the amount of electrical 'resistance'; or between atheism 
and crime; or between distribution of gold supply and 
prosperity; or between the pressure and volume of gases. 
In each case observations, experiments, and statistics can 
be produced to show that whenever one factor varies in 
some regular way, the other also varies, and the variations 
can be correlated in some fashion. When these correla- 
tions are made precise by science, they take the form of 


mathematical functions. A mathematical function may 
be defined as a variable magnitude so related to another 
variable magnitude that for every determinate value of 
one there is a corresponding determinate value of the 

A mathematical function is, as we have seen, the typical 
form of a scientific law. But so far as the proof of causal 
relations goes, there is nothing essentially new in this 
method. An observed correlation between a and b gives 
some probability to a causal connection between them, 
and this is made more accurate by further careful observa- 
tion and experiment. It is particularly difficult in the use 
of this method to be sure that all relevant factors are taken 
properly into account. In the last -generation atheism 
and crime have both increased in the United States. This 
increase, then, is apparently not connected with the factors 
that have remained the same the size of the country, 
the number of states, the distance from New York to 
Chicago. But a good many things besides atheism and 
crime have changed also during the last generation, and 
more convincing correlations might be established in- 
volving some of them, and lessening the causal intimacy 
of atheism and crime. Even the more exact correlation 
between the behavior of the moon and of the tides is not a 
conclusive proof that they are causally connected. It 
does prove that their changes are not dependent on what 
remains the same the distribution of continents, the 
general behavior of mankind, the chemical constitution 
of sea-water. But, for advanced science, the relation 
between the moon and the tides is shown more convinc- 
ingly through the whole general structure of science, 
through deduction for instance from the 'universal' law of 
gravitation, than through functional correlation alone. 

Nevertheless, whatever its theoretic status, science puts 
chief emphasis on functional correlation. Most of what 


goes on in laboratories is the functional correlation of 
various phenomena, recorded in the graphs, tables, charts 
of any article or book dealing with scientific research. 
This, however, is due not so much to the logical superiority 
of the method, but to a theory or belief tacitly accepted 
throughout the history of western mankind in the funda- 
mentally mathematical character of physical reality. 
"Just as the eye was made to see colors, and the ear to 
hear sounds, so the human mind was made to understand, 
not whatever you please, but quantity." 1 


If we think over the generalizations by which we guide 
our lives, there are few, if any, that we suppose to be 
true in the ideal form a = b. They state, rather, connec- 
tions that have a certain degree of probability on the basis 
of our own and other persons' experience. The proposi- 
tion, "It is always safe to ride on railway trains," is 
manifestly false, disproved by a single negative instance, 
of which there have been many. But the proposition, 
"If one rides on a railway train, one will probably be 
safe," is true; one may ride and be killed, but this does not 
disprove the proposition, which allows for exceptions. 
Such propositions form the basis of action: most food is 
all right to eat; the taxi won't break down taking me to 
the station; letters get to the people to whom they are 

When the probability is put into mathematical form, 
these generalizations are called statistical. If there are five 
people in a room, two of whom have blue eyes, and if one 
of the five leaves the room, and if our only evidence in 
judging who has left is our knowledge of the colors of 
the eyes, the probability that a blue-eyed person has left 

1 Kepler, Opera , I, 31. 


is f. This is true by definition. Stated generally: "If, 
of n units, m have the characteristic x y the probability 
that any one unit chosen at random has the characteristic 

x is " The inductive problem enters in, as before, only 

when we extend our results beyond the observed particu- 
lars. A poll on prohibition is taken among 5,000,000 
American citizens, and the result is 2 to i against prohibi- 
tion. On the basis of this result we generalize; and con- 
clude that in the case of any individual, about whom we 
know no more than that he is an American citizen, 
the probability of his being against prohibition is f . This 
extension beyond the observed particulars clearly involves 
the general postulates of inductive method; but it aims 
at the knowledge not of invariant connections, but simply 
of the probability of certain connections. 

The most successful examples of statistical generaliza- 
tion are provided by the actuarial work of insurance 
companies. In all cases their generalizations extend be- 
yond directly known particulars. Yet they are so accurate 
that the companies are able to make money. When a 
man of thirty takes out a life insurance policy, there is 
a definite probability that he will live one more year, a 
different probability that he will live two more years, and 
so on. These probabilities are based on a classification of 
the man simply as "a man living in the United States, 
thirty years old." If the classification were narrowed to 
"a man of exceptionally good health" or "a man with 
tuberculosis," the probabilities would of course be dif- 
ferent. The statistics of the insurance company, more- 
over, do not predict what will happen to any particular 
man, but what will probably happen. If this probability 
is justified in the large number of cases covered by their 
policies, rates based on this probability will pay dividends. 
Of course a particular company might be unfortunate in 


getting nothing but unhealthy or unlucky policy-holders; 
but statistical generalizations must postulate that 'special 
factors' will cancel out if enough particulars are included 
in the long run. 

If there are 100 particulars, 40 of which have the 
property a, the probability that any one has the property 
a is i*i&r or f . This probability is by definition, and the 
statement "If x is one of these 100 particulars, there is a 
probability f that that x is a" is true a priori. But 
suppose we wished to extend this statement to 1000 
particulars, knowing directly only the 100. Would the 
probability still hold? There would, by the rules of 
induction, be a certain probability that it would hold, a 
considerable probability, if, in the 100 we had examined, 
there were no general connection between a and some other 
factor not connected with the remaining 900. If we found 
100 men in a city, 40 of whom were blue-eyed, and wished 
to extend our statement of the probability of any one of a 
1000 of the city's inhabitants being blue-eyed, we should 
have to take care that there was no special factor affecting 
the probabilities in the case of the 100, such as nationality, 
which would not apply to the others. Our probabilities 
must be based on what are called Jair samples. From a 
poll on prohibition in New York City it is not legitimate 
to draw conclusions about the prohibition sentiment of 
the entire country. The procedure is the same as in 
ordinary inductive generalization, and consists essentially 
in the determination of what factors are relevant. If a 
and b are exactly alike in all relevant factors (which can 
never be determined with certainty), then the same proba- 
bility fraction applies to both of them. Mere increase of 
numbers of particulars does not necessarily increase the 
accuracy of the statement of probability very much if it is 
to extend to other particulars, because of the danger of 
a constant factor affecting the result. Nevertheless, in- 


crease of numbers usually helps indirectly through the 
probability that the particulars examined are not all alike, 
and the chance that the unexamined constant factor will 
thus automatically be eliminated. 

The use of statistical generalizations in the so-called 
'social sciences' is too well known to require illustration. 
It was once thought that the social sciences used statistics 
because they dealt with a subject-matter (chiefly human 
beings) not yet amenable to the more exact methods of 
physics, astronomy, chemistry, etc. As we shall see in 
Chapter VII, there is at the present time a tendency to 
believe that the laws of the exact sciences are also, though 
perhaps not in the same sense, fundamentally statistical. 


The impression gained from a study of inductive gener- 
alization may very well be that its theoretic foundations 
are somewhat shaky. And if it is thought that the aim of 
induction is to give us knowledge of unalterable laws hold- 
ing universally among the phenomena of the real world 
this impression is undoubtedly justified. Induction can 
give us some knowledge, of a certain amount of proba- 
bility upon its evidence, of relations holding among events, 
and that is all. That, moreover, is a good deal, and all we 
should expect of it. 

In science as we know it, however, the discovery of 
isolated generalizations from the study of particulars is 
only the first and elementary stage. It is the first stage, 
and upon it the rest is based. But almost at the beginning 
various generalizations are seen to be related to each other, 
to enforce each other, to join together into more abstract 
and more extensive generalizations. The whole body of 
science is built slowly into a structure. 

If science is thought of in terms of human needs, there 


are two which it seems to satisfy: the practical, pragmatic 
need for control; and the need for theory, structure, 
'explanation.' 'Positivists,' social thinkers, inventors 
have emphasized the first, but the need for structure is 
perhaps even more basic. Surely this was more important 
for the great scientists themselves: Newton and Faraday 
were hardly looking forward to a radio in the corner of a 
speakeasy, or a subway in the rush hour. 

The structure to which science (at least the physical 
sciences) approximates we have already spoken of in 
connection with the formation of hypotheses. It is, 
roughly, the deductive and logically a priori structure 
of mathematics, though it will never attain this structure, 
because science has always a reference to particulars. As 
more and more precise generalizations are reached, they 
are perceived to have logical relations to each other. 
Tentative, fragmentary generalizations covering small 
groups of phenomena are seen as logical derivatives from 
wider generalizations; relations are seen to exist, through 
mathematically expressed laws, between phenomena of 
apparently the most diverse sorts. Unification of this 
structure serves our practical needs; but if science is to be 
understood its esthetic aspect must not be overlooked. 

There are no 'brute facts' to start from. The simplest 
generalization needs a theory, a belief, to make it even 
possible. The great structural abstractions of relativity 
physics imply a whole view of the world, and an attitude 
toward reality. Experience forms almost automatically 
a belief in certain generalizations about the motions of 
material bodies: that some go down and some up, that 
heavy bodies fall faster than light ones. Experience 
teaches us unconsciously something about points of light 
we call stars. It was a mathematician, Ptolemy, who 
grouped together observations about the motions of stars, 
planets, the sun, and the moon into a coherent structure. 


This was in no sense a simple generalization from particular 
observations. No observations would have told him 
about his cycles and epi-cycles revolving intricately about 
the earth. Another mathematician, Copernicus, suggested 
a new mathematical hypothesis, which made the astro- 
nomical structure simpler and more elegant. And in 
advancing it he disregarded what might seem to be one 
of the most obvious facts of all experience the firmness 
and solidity of the earth we live on. Another mathema- 
tician, Kepler, using observations gathered patiently by 
Tycho Brahe, improved the mathematical harmony of 
the structure by treating the hypothetical movements 
of the planets as ellipses. At the same time Galileo de- 
nied the apparent evidence of our senses that heavy bodies 
fall faster than light bodies, and derived the motions of all 
bodies on the earth from a few simple equations. Galileo 
* proved' his laws by experiments, but he wrote himself 
that the experiments were only to convince the ignorant, 
that mathematical reason alone demonstrated them. 
Newton, one of the greatest mathematicians, by a brilliant 
imaginative hypothesis, showed that all these subsidiary 
laws, those governing the motions of the planets and the 
motions of bodies on the earth, could be mathematically 
deduced from a single universal law, which he called the 
law of gravitation. And Einstein has shown that Newton's 
law can be deduced as a special instance of even more 
abstract and generalized equations. If we ask which is 
true, Aristotle's generalization that bodies fall with vary- 
ing speeds toward the earth, or Einstein's structuralized 
abstraction, it is not an easy question to answer. Bodies 
certainly do fall with varying speeds. Are we to explain 
this, as Aristotle did, as being part of their 'nature,' or are 
we to correlate this diversity with a large number of other 
phenomena, grouped under a small number of interrelated 
equations? It is not easy to answer, because it is so hard 


to see what the question means. But if we accept science, 
we accept the effort to attain a mathematically integrated 
structure of reality which is to be judged not only by its 
ability to correlate all the 'facts' (which could be done 
by other types of structure and in other ways), but by its 
mathematical harmony, consistency, and coherence. 




Every inquiry is limited in scope; if it were not it 
would be meaningless. Spinoza's principle, determinatio 
est negatlo ("to say definitely what a thing is, is at the 
same time to say what it is not") is one of the axioms 
which all clear discussion must accept. If a problem is to 
be discussed satisfactorily we must have some standard of 
what is relevant and what is irrelevant to the problem; 
that is, we must be as clear as possible about its subject- 
matter: it must have one subject-matter rather than 
another. In other words, every problem and likewise 
every term and proposition used in the problem has a 
certain range of reference. The range of reference of a 
given problem or group of related problems may be called 
its realm of discourse. 

The term 'realm of discourse' should not be interpreted 
to mean that the scope of each inquiry is clearly de- 
marcated from that of every other. The boundary lines 
are clear only where the subject-matter of the inquiry 
consists of terms that have been previously straightened 
out by definitions terms, therefore, which refer only at 
second-hand to the shifting and somewhat vague multi- 
plicity of ordinary experience. In most problems we have 
to set up our boundary lines gradually, as the problem is 
gradually elaborated and clarified. And, since human in- 
terests are more or less organically knit up, there is nat- 
urally enough much overlapping. But though we cannot 
ordinarily expect a sharp separation of one realm of 



discourse from another, we can differentiate them by the 
dominant problems by which each is characterized. For 
example, if A shoots B, the event may give rise to several 
types of inquiry. That is, it may be accepted as relevant 
material in several realms of discourse, each distinguished 
by some problem or set of problems that is dominant. In 
the field of physics, if the situation were taken cognizance 
of at all, the dominant problems would be concerned with 
the force and direction of the projected bullet. For 
psychology the dominant problems would be about the 
motives of the murderer and the previous experiences, 
suggestions, emotions, thoughts, decisions, repressions, 
that might have furnished a background for those motives. 
For behaviorism (which as we shall see in Chapter IX, is, 
in its more extreme formulation, closer to physiology than 
to psychology) the dominant problems would have to do 
with the purely physical stimuli and the purely physical 
'reaction possibilities' which preceded the shooting as well 
as the effects that the shooting might be supposed to have 
on the physical behavior of the still living members of 
society. For ethics the dominant problems would be 
whether the shooting, the supposed motives for it and the 
predicted effects, were good or bad; for theology, whether 
consistent with Divine Law. Evidently, then, all these 
realms of discourse (and doubtless many more) are in 
certain of their phases identical, but are nevertheless 
distinguished in the important respect that the shared 
material is in each realm related to a different set of 
dominant problems. 

But not only are there problems within a realm of dis- 
course itself. Realms of discourse, since they can be 
jointly objects of interest for a single inquirer, can also 
be made objects of one inquiry: we can ask about their 
various interrelations and attempt to formulate more 
clearly their differences. Questions of this kind are called 


metaphysical; any reply that is formulated in answer to 
such a question is called a metaphysical judgment; and the 
subject-matter constituted by such questions is called 

It is often supposed that metaphysics is primarily con- 
cerned with the question " What is the ultimate nature of 
reality ?" and since no completely adequate answer to 
such a question will probably ever be given, that meta- 
physics is a quite worthless study. Now it was pointed 
out in Chapter I that questions are not necessarily asked 
in order to be given answers; some questions are asked 
chiefly to enable us to understand a problem better, to 
show us more clearly what is meant by it. The sciences, 
as they have established more exactly formulated prob- 
lems, have generally succeeded in dropping the earlier 
vaguer formulations that started them off; but in meta- 
physics, because of its more comprehensive nature, this 
distinction is harder to observe. Furthermore, a ques- 
tion like "What is reality?" is only partly the question 
it looks like. At least partly it is a request for emotional 
satisfaction. Consequently, any direct categorical answer 
to it, of the form *x alone is real,' will be largely emotive: a 
declaration of cosmic allegiance. Examples of this type of 
assertion will be taken up later in this chapter; but the 
point to be emphasized is that the legitimacy of meta- 
physics does not depend on the possibility of successfully 
establishing such assertions. There remains in any case a 
legitimate and important role for metaphysics that of 
clarifying the interrelations of the various major realms of 
discourse in such a way as to fit them, with the least 
possible distortion of their specific natures, into some 
kind of intelligible structure. The method by which 
this task is carried out is called, as stated in Chapter I, 
dialectic, and it is now time to examine more closely the 
nature of the dialectical method. 



It is by now clear that every perception, every word, 
every proposition, and every realm of discourse can have 
meaning only by being somehow limited. The perception 
is this perception as distinguished from other remembered 
or imagined perceptions, the word or proposition means 
one thing rather than another, the realm of discourse gives 
verbal expression to some group of meanings and embraces 
some group of problems rather than some other. Toward 
these limitations and the unexamined presuppositions to 
which they give rise it is possible to become critical, and 
such criticism is the business of dialectic. 

All thinking, so far as it is genuinely thinking and not 
merely a mental repetition of words, is to an extent 
dialectical. Our reasoning is never purely linear, starting 
with clearly defined presuppositions and moving by a 
definite number of distinct steps to a strictly implied 
conclusion. Once an act of reasoning has been completed 
it can be represented as consisting of formal relationships 
such as those expounded in Chapter IV. Such a repre- 
sentation is often extremely useful: while it does not de- 
scribe the way the reasoning took place it does show the 
implicit relations which determine whether we shall build 
up formal constructions in one direction or another. But 
if we think of reasoning in this way it is because we are 
looking at the results rather than at the actual process. 
Shall I sacrifice my dinner or at least eat a cheaper 
one in order to go to a concert? Suppose I genuinely 
wish both to dine in luxury and to attend the concert 
and that my poverty makes it impossible to do both. 
Then a dialectical situation will arise. Ethical theorists 
sometimes talk as if it were possible to apply some defi- 
nite standard such as 'pleasure' and by examining the 
proposed acts to see how much 'pleasure' each is likely 


to bring, to make a purely logical choice in favor of 
the more pleasurable alternative. Possibly there are 
some occasions where this would roughly describe the 
way we reason, but in at least many of our deliberatidns 
the analysis is inadequate because of the different meaning 
given to * greater pleasure ' according as we choose the one 
way or the other. What experience tells me is that from 
the sumptuous dinner I shall get a greater amount of one 
kind of enjoyable experience, from the concert a greater 
amount of a very different kind. In deliberating which to 
choose the principal effort consists in trying to compre- 
hend adequately the two kinds of enjoyable experience and 
ask which of them I accept as the more valuable. The 
deliberation does not proceed by isolating some abstract 
quality called ' pleasure ' which both experiences share, and 
then measuring the amount possessed by each. It pro- 
ceeds rather by what may be called a 'dramatic represen- 
tation' of the total experience consequent upon each 
choice; and in choosing between the two experiences as we 
envisage them our method is dialectical in so far as we are 
critical towards the special kind of enjoyment offered by 
each; that is to say, so far as we are able imaginatively to 
apprehend in each case both the positive goods and the 
limitations, losses, or sacrifices that will be entailed. 

Scientific reasoning, too, is dialectical, so far as in 
gathering data to establish an hypothesis the hypothesis 
is therein given additional significance. Very often, it is 
true, an experimenter this is especially true of a student 
working 'under direction* in a college laboratory knows 
in advance pretty much what results he is expected to 
find, and if they are not forthcoming his work of reasoning 
may be limited to devising explanations for their absence. 
But where a genuine scientific discovery is made there is 
not merely an added fact grafted onto pre-existent knowl- 
edge; there is also a newly critical attitude formed toward 


some aspect of the pre-existent knowledge itself. The 
apple which, according to legend, Newton saw drop was 
not for him merely a new fact; in any usual sense it was 
hardly a new fact at all. It would be foolish to picture 
Newton as watching an apple drop and then reasoning 
by a succession of logical steps to his formulation of the 
law of gravitation. If that description were adequate 
why had not the appearance of some previously falling 
body led to the same discovery? From any purely formal 
standpoint, the law of gravitation is as much implied in 
one falling body as in another. What uniquely char- 
acterized this celebrated situation was not a group of 
implicit logical relations, since these had been present, 
unrecognized, in countless situations of the past; but an 
actual dialectical process by which Newton became 
critical toward some of the presuppositions that had 
previously determined, and therefore limited, the kind of 
theories that it could occur to him to build. 

But though we may grant that all reasoning is to some 
extent dialectical, the extent is generally much limited. 
Most of our inquiries have fairly fixed limits prescribed 
to their critical scope, whether by habit, prejudice, or 
as in the case preeminently of science definition. To 
what extent can the dialectical method of philosophy be 
more thorough-going? For, remembering the principle, 
determinatio est negatio> must not every philosophical in- 
quiry also make presuppositions and be likewise limited? 
Is not dialectical method essentially self-contradictory, 
since while criticizing this or that group of presuppositions 
it is making tacit presuppositions of its own? At the very 
least it is presupposing the validity of a critical approach 
to problems. And actually, in any given application of 
dialectic, we know that it is likely to presuppose much 
more. Theological dogmas are critically examined often 
because we have a perhaps unexamined faith in the 


superior validity of scientific method; political standpat- 
ism is criticized by one who takes for granted the superior 
virtues of a more liberal attitude; in general, we can 
recognize the prejudices of our neighbor only when they 
are set in relief by the different kind of prejudices that 
propel our own thinking. This being the case, is not 
dialectical method, if not impossible, at least strictly 
limited in the extent to which it can be carried out; and 
is not philosophy, therefore, whose technique is conspic- 
uously dialectical, a quite superfluous discipline? 

The answer to this question becomes apparent when we 
reflect how the dialectical process actually goes on. In 
any given dialectical situation certain presuppositions are 
accepted, but it is at least theoretically possible to find 
out what these are and in that way, even while retaining 
them, to recognize their limitations. When we recognize 
clearly enough the limitations of a given dialectical 
situation our thought steps thereby beyond those limits, 
the earlier problems are understood in terms of a wider 
context, and the dialectical situation is thereby enlarged. 
It is in this sense that there is a profound truth in the 
statement, "Knowledge is power." Even the desirability 
of the critical method itself, which is tacitly assumed in 
every actual dialectical procedure, <?kn be examined 
critically without any manifest contradiction. We can 
become critical toward the critical method to the extent 
that we can recall various unreflective states that we have 
from time to time enjoyed, and we can thus be aware that 
in accepting the advantages of the critical attitude we are 
at the same time sacrificing a different sort of advantage 
the possibly greater conterrtment that would come from 
asking no questions about life. And while the making of 
such a comparison is doubtless in turn colored by un- 
examined prejudices, this merely means that dialectic, 
being the actual dynamic process of thinking critically, 


can be pushed as far as the ingenuity of the reasoner 
permits and as the nature of the problem requires. To 
push it insufficiently far makes for superficial thinking; 
to push it too far leads into quibbling and word-chopping. 
In these matters there is no fixed rule. The degree of 
analysis required by a given problem must be determined 
afresh, as intelligently as possible, in each new dialectical 

Dialectic of values. One of the most important and 
most common applications of dialectical method is to 
problems of value, or normative problems. For normative 
problems are closer to most aspects of everyday life than 
are, for example, the metaphysical problems that we shall 
presently consider; and they offer greater possibilities of 
disagreement than other everyday problems. If I assert 
that the Empire State Building is higher than the Chrysler 
Building I am unlikely to challenge serious disagreement; 
and if anyone does disagree I shall not argue with him, I 
shall simply invite him to measure the two buildings, or 
to compare their apparent heights when viewed from a 
distance measured to be equidistant from them; and be- 
cause we all accept a set of mathematically identical and 
invariant standards for measuring distance yardsticks, 
tape measures, etc. I am confident of being able to 
prove to him by experiment that he is wrong. But if I 
assert that the Empire State Building is more handsome 
than the Chrysler I am more likely to invite disagreement, 
and there appears to be no simple way of dispelling it. 
I can discuss the matter, pointing to the greater simplicity 
of the Empire State Building and the presence of distract- 
ing details on the Chrysler, but if someone were to reply 
that he prefers ornateness to simplicity it is hardly fruitful 
to carry the argument farther. The standard of 'hand- 
someness* that I was proposing in this discussion is not 
accepted; and just as behind any dialectical process there 


must lie certain tacit presuppositions which are however 
brought to relatively clear expression by the dialectic 
itself, so in discussing a normative problem both parties 
to the discussion must agree at least to some extent on 
certain norms, or standards that is to say, presupposi- 
tions about the values involved. These standards may be 
largely implicit, but one of the functions of dialectic is to 
bring them as far as possible into the open, to explicate 
them. And if the discussion brings out that the ulterior 
values assumed by each of the disputants are funda- 
mentally opposed to each other, it is hardly worth, so 
far as that particular point is concerned, pursuing; its 
principal benefit has been to show the futility of further 

A similar condition tacit acceptance of at least 
partially the same standards, whose nature gets partly 
brought to light by the discussion itself holds also 
when the discussion is about moral problems. A moral 
problem is a special (though probably the most familiar) 
kind of normative problem, concerned not merely with 
what is good or bad, more excellent or less excellent, 
but with what ought to be done. To raise a moral problem 
is at the same time to raise a normative problem, for in 
deliberating about what ought to be done we are also 
asking what, if done, would be better; but not all norma- 
tive problems are moral, for we can ask the latter question 
without asking the former. This is commonly the case 
with questions of esthetics and also with discussions 
about unattainable Utopias and about the abstract desira- 
bility of imagined acts which are not, as a matter of fact, 
within our power. When the question at issue is a moral 
one the standards involved take the form of standards of 
conduct or moral ends. These are similar to other types 
of standard and of dialectical presupposition generally, 
in that they are usually more or less implicit to begin 


with and are brought to a more articulate form in the 
course of the discussion, and in the further respect that 
if two sets of moral ends are completely at variance no 
amount of discussion is likely to heal the breach. Imagine, 
for example, an argument with a communist about the 
desirability of the Soviet form of government. He, let 
us suppose, argues that it makes for a more equitable 
distribution of goods and at the same time, by its greater 
centralization of authority, for a more stable and therefore 
more enduring society. These two effects, he argues, 
economic equality and economic-political stability, will 
alleviate the principal causes of human misery and therein 
promote so far as possible the greatest happiness of the 
greatest number. Suppose, on the other hand, the anti- 
communist declares that true happiness is impossible 
without a great degree of individual freedom and social 
diversity, both of which he finds inconsistent with the 
extreme centralization of authority and mechanization 
of function promoted by the Soviet government. Both 
disputants agree that in some sense the 'happiness' of as 
many people as possible is desirable. Naturally, the fact 
that they apply 'happiness* in such different ways shows 
that they do not mean quite the same thing by it; still, 
the word symbolizes some kind of agreement, and though 
this may be perhaps no more than a general sentiment 
of good-will toward human beings at large it is sufficient 
to orient the discussion. Agreeing on social happiness as 
an end, the disputants can then raise such subsidiary 
questions as: the extent to which and the ways in which 
centralization and mechanization are actually going on in 
Russia, the extent to which this can be paralleled in other 
countries, whether these evils are greater or less than the 
poverty, injustice and general social anarchy that the 
Soviet plan avowedly hopes to minimize or even eradicate. 
No complete agreement is likely; indeed, 'complete' 


agreement would make discussion impossible no less than 
a too radical disagreement. What is needed is a sufficient 
agreement about fundamental things to preserve the dis- 
cussion. If the anti-communist had replied in the first 
place that he was not over-much interested in the general 
happiness but primarily in the happiness of himself, his 
friends, and persons sharing his own interests, it is not 
easy to see how much of a discussion could ensue, for the 
disputants would have had no common ground. 


The general principles of dialectical reasoning involved 
in the foregoing illustrations are equally important when 
dialectic is applied to the more abstruse problems of 
metaphysics. Metaphysics has already been defined as a 
study of the distinctions and interrelations of major 
realms of discourse, in such a way as to fit them, without 
losing sight of their specific natures, into some kind of 
intelligible structure. This definition implies that meta- 
physics has a twofold nature. So far as it consists in 
clarifying the meaning of each realm of discourse with 
reference to others, it is critical; so far as it consists in 
positing a system in which these different orders of being 
are given different places according to the degree of 
* reality' that they are declared to have, it is systematic or 

(1) Critical metaphysics. The first step in a critical 
approach to any realm of discourse is to specify the 
dominant categories of that realm. By 'category* is meant 
"one of the highest classes to which the objects of knowl- 
edge or thought can be reduced" (Webster), that is, one 
of the most abstract characteristics of experience. Red 
and blue, while partially abstract since they must each 
cover a multitude of differing cases, are concrete as 


compared with the more highly generalized notion of 
color. Color, in turn, can be subsumed under a higher 
generalization, which is discoverable when we reflect by 
what name we designate the property that color, sound, 
and the like have in common. We call them all qualities. 
The notion of quality is a very highly generalized one 
indeed, but it is specific to this degree at least, that, used 
accurately, it can be discerned to be logically distinct 
from the notion of quantity, space, time, substance, cause, 
mind, value. It is possible to shift the meanings of these 
words so as to make some of them appear to be merely 
special cases of others. Such shifts will be discussed 
presently; for the moment it is enough to observe that 
they are in various ways possible, and that philosophers 
have never been agreed on just what classifications of 
categories to consider final. Probably the best classifica- 
tion that has been devised is that of the French philoso- 
pher, Charles Renouvier, who listed nine categories: 
relation (which is at once the most general category and 
also an abstract characteristic present in all the cate- 
gories), number, spatial position, temporal succession, qual- 
ity, becoming, causality, 'finality' (telic principle), person- 
hood. Still, the list is not immune from attack, and the 
best way of dealing with the problem of categories is not 
to attempt to formulate a completely satisfactory list 
of them, but rather to attempt in dialectical reasoning to 
recognize categorial * differences and interrelations wher- 
ever they appear. 

The importance of such a recognition becomes evident 
whenever dialectical procedure is pushed very far, as for 
instance in a dialectical critique of science. It is evident 
that 'science* is an abstract term, since there is no one 

1 The adjective * categorial' means 'pertaining to categories/ and should not 
be confused with 'categorical/ which refers to judgments and propositions and 
means 'affirmed unconditionally/ 


science but many sciences, each having a different and 
sometimes quite distinct subject-matter. Partly the dif- 
ficulty of characterizing science is due to the ambiguity 
of the word, which makes it refer not only to the empiri- 
cal sciences but also to mathematics, and which enables 
esoteric doctrines to be sometimes called 'occult sciences/ 
But disregarding these special uses of the word, we can 
discover a similarity among the various sciences not 
so much in their subject-matters as in their aims, methods, 
and definitions. These aspects of science were discussed 
in the last chapter; they may be summed up here as fol- 
lows: (i) In some sense or other it begins by describing 
phenomena; itjdoes not, explicitly at least, evaluate them! 
^Tlts descriptions are selective, admitting as true data 
only those Aspects, of things that "afe^ so faFa^T possible^ 
publicly verifiable. (3) It is not interested in an individual 
as such but only considered as representing a class and as 
possessing characteristics shared by other membersj)f the 
class. (4) The most important of the shared characteris- 
tics, particularly in the more developed sciences and in 
the more developed stages of science, is that of being 
measurable; whence it follows that science in making its 
selective description tends to stress the quantitative aspect 
of things and either to ignore or to regard as relatively un- 
important by-products the immediately qualitative as- 
pects. (5) It is deterministic; it accepts the postulate of 
causal determinism (whether for every individual event, 
as in classical mechanics, or for statistically determined 
classes, as in some branches of modern physics) as a 
regulative ideal that is, as holding good even in situa- 
tions where its validity cannot be empirically verified. 
By recognizing these characteristics, or some similar 
grouping, as essential to the meaning of what is properly 
called science, it becomes possible to get a clearer notion 
of the possibilities of valid realms of discourse that are not 


scientific. Experiences so far as they are (i) evaluated, 
(2) private, (3) complete in themselves, (4) qualitative, 
(5) fortuitous, are not accepted as material for science. 
Frequently it is not recognized even by scientists how 
much material they are constantly ignoring, for in actual 
experience the scientific and the non-scientific aspects 
are found mixed up together, and since the work of 
separation is carried out instantaneously according to the 
dictates of the problem on which one is engaged, there is 
danger of forgetting that it has actually taken place. 
But one has only to reflect on the difference between the 
Newtonian view of space and the different sorts of spatial 
experiences in dreams, in imaginings, in the unfamiliar 
spatial perspectives that make up a painting by Cezanne, 
or even in just gazing into the sky and seeing the stars 
as not so very distant pin-points of light; between time 
as measured by clocks and calendars and time as experi- 
enced when hours and days seem now to creep by, now to 
have escaped before we have half enjoyed them; between 
the physicist's analysis of matter into patterns of electrical 
charges and our own immediate acquaintance with matter 
as something hard, pushable, and sometimes (not always: 
we 'enter' the water) impenetrable; between the scien- 
tist's postulate of a deterministic universe and our own 
frequent experience of chance events, of our being taken 
by surprise of these and other similar differences, in 
order to see how marked are the limitations of the scien- 
tific ideal and how far removed from familiar experiences 
are the concepts of theoretical science. We are here up 
against a major division of categories: those defining the 
scientist's 'world' and those which are not relevant to 
that world. That non-scientific categories somehow are 
and do somehow have meaning is demonstrable a priori 
from the dialectical principles already laid down: if 
science is more than an empty word it must have definite 


characteristics; and a set of characteristics can be definite 
only by being limited, that is by not being some other set. 
A set of five such characteristics belonging to science and 
an opposing set of five contrasting characteristics has 
just been laid down; but by observing the principles of 
dialectical analysis it is clear that even if science were not 
granted to possess this particular set of characteristics it 
would have to possess some set, and the a priori validity 
of a non-scientific realm (or realms) of discourse would 
be therewith granted. 

(2) Systematic metaphysics. Viewing opposing cate- 
gories or sets of categories in opposition makes it possible 
to formulate the question, Which of the sets is the more 
real? This is the most general formulation of the problem 
of systematic metaphysics. Are physical things alone 
real? _Or is God the only reality^ _^rj$hal! I designate as 
real only those aspects of things which I can experience Ur 
enjoy or participate in? All these and many more asser- 
tions haveTrom time to time been offered. Probablj^it 
would be wisest not to hope for any limited, standardized 
application oT 'real' to take precedence over others. The 
word is serviceable in orienting discussions that pass 
dialectically beyond the limits of highly standardized 
meanings, and its own meaning must be thought of as 
unified only in a much more abstract sense. The following 
quotation from Professor C. I. Lewis makes this clear: 

The word 'real* has a single meaning, of course, in the same 
sense that 'useful* or any other such elliptical term has a single 
meaning. Nothing is useful for every purpose, and perhaps 
everything is useful for some purpose. A definition of 'useful' 
in general would not divide things into two classes, the useful 
and the useless. Nor could we arrive at such a definition by 
attempting to collect all useful things into a class and remark 
their common characters, since we should probably have every- 
thing in the class and nothing outside it to represent the useless. 


Instead, we should first have to consider the different types of 
usefulness or of useful things and then discover, if possible, 
what it is that characterizes the useful as contrasted with the 
useless in all these different cases. We should find, of course, 
that it was not some sense-quality but a relation to an end which 
was the universal mark of usefulness. Similarly, to arrive at a 
general definition of * the real' it would not do to lump together 
all sorts of realities in one class and seek directly for their 
common character. Everything in this class would be at once 
real, in some category, and unreal in others. And nothing 
would be left outside it. The subject of our generalization must 
be, instead, the distinction real-unreal in all the different cate- 
gories. 1 

Following out Lewis' suggestion, what can we say is 
the common character of the different uses of 'real* and 
the different distinctions of real-unreal with respect to the 
several categories? The meaning of 'real' when thus 
analyzed appears to be relevance to the realm of discourse 
in terms of which the judgment of reality is made. To 
this extent, then, the application of the words 'real' and 
'unreal' shifts according to the realm of discourse that 
is taken as standard of reference. The nature of a realm 
of discourse is determined, as we have seen, by the nature 
of the set of problems that constitutes it. Consequently 
when we have established and clearly understood a set 
of problems, we have therein fixed the meaning of 'real' 
relatively to those problems. If our problem is to determine 
the acceleration of a falling body the color of the body is 
irrelevant that is, unreal with respect to the problem. 
If our problem is to determine the probable responses that 
a human organism will make to given stimuli, the feelings 
and thoughts in general, the mind of the individual 
being thus experimented on are irrelevant and therefore 
unreal with respect to this problem. If science in general 

1 Mind and the World-Order, pp. 15-16. 


is conceived as aiming at establishing formulas for the 
systematization of the publicly verifiable aspects of things, 
then the aspects which are not publicly verifiable or which 
cannot without changing their character be systematized 
thoughts and feelings and values, and the beauty and 
ugliness and excitement and dreariness of things, and the 
countless vague random fleeting qualities for which we 
have never devised names all these must be called 
unreal from the standpoint of science. There are other 
points of view, of course, from which the categories of 
science would in turn be unreal, or of inferior reality. 
The protons and electrons of which, from the physicist's 
standpoint, Belinda is composed are quite unreal from 
the standpoint of love-making. Love-making has its own 
glimpses of reality, and the successful lover will know 
better than to confuse these with the, to him, irrelevant 
realities of science. On a more general and theoretical 
level there are many philosophies that reduce scientific 
categories to the status either of pure illusion or of, at 
best, a distortion of the Reality that can be rightly appre- 
hended only in another way by an ecstatic vision of 
God, or, as in the philosophy of Bergson, by a pure intui- 
tion of the continuous flow of experience, which we can 
get only by living and which we lose sight of when we try 
to think about it in terms of science or logic. The history 
of philosophy is, from one point of view, a record of the 
attempts that have been made to give systematic ex- 
pression to different standards of what Reality is. And 
the task of metaphysical criticism may be restated as the 
task of clarifying, afresh within each new context, the 
specific meanings that 'real' will from time to time have. 
But as for the standards on which the different doc- 
trines of reality are based, can anything further be said 
about them? 'Real/ it has already been said, means 
relevance to the realm of discourse in terms of which the 


judgment of reality is made. But what determines which 
realm of discourse is to be chosen as such a standard? 
The most plausible reply is that in declaring one realm 
of discourse, or certain categories employed in it, to be 
more real than others, the metaphysician is making a 
judgment of value; and that metaphysical judgments are 
therefore a form of, or at least closely similar to, norma- 
tive judgments. When the evaluative basis of meta- 
physical judgments is recognized, a metaphysical doctrine 
can be interpreted as an attempt to give systematic ex- 
pression to what is at bottom a declaration of the most 
worthwhile aspects of things: it is the metaphysician's 
own declaration of cosmic allegiance. 


Because of the intrinsic difficulty of its subject-matter 
metaphysical reasoning is especially susceptible to subtle 
and not easily discoverable fallacies. The most general 
kind of fallacy, and in a sense the basis of all fallacies, is 
ambiguity. Various forms of ambiguity were discussed 
in Chapter III; they may be reconsidered here, especially 
Types ii and 12, so far as they relate to metaphysical 
reasoning. In other words, the ambiguities that will con- 
cern us in this chapter are those in which ihe_doubk 
referent straddles two or more realms of discourse. These 
may be 

Some metaphysical ambiguities are clear-cut and easy 
to point out, since the referents between which the mean- 
ing of the word swings are each of them sufficiently 
definite. ' Space ' and ' time * are examples of words whose 
ambiguity, while of metaphysical significance, is fairly 
clear-cut. Omitting poetic and more purely metaphoric 
usages, which will be discussed in Chapter XII, each of 
these words appears to have two principal meanings: the 


one in terms of the scientific notion of * dimension/ the 
other in terms of more or less immediate experience. In 
the one sense ' space ' and ' time ' are abstractly conceived 
dimensions in terms of which every 'physical event* is 
defined; they are uniform, public, and measurable. In 
the other sense 'space' is what we see stretched out before 
us, it characterizes the objects we dream about, it changes 
its character when one is dizzy or drunk; 'time* is an 
ever-present state of conscious activity, big with memories 
of the past and with expectations of the future. In this 
case, the ambiguity can be removed by simply giving 
different names to the two meanings ordinarily associated 
with each of the words. Thus it is customary to dis- 
tinguish between conceptual space, in which at ordinary 
velocities Euclid's theorems hold approximately true and 
in which the two rails of a track 'really' remain parallel, 
and perceptual space, which means the spatial experiences 
we actually have, which the painter may try to represent 
on canvas, and according to which the railway tracks 
come together in the distance and there is a 'horizon' 
where heaven and earth meet. Similarly, in conceptual 
time 'the present' is a mathematical point without dura- 
tion, which could never possibly therefore be experienced; 
whereas perceptual time is, as already suggested, a con- 
tinual moving present. 

In general, such words as 'being,' 'nothing/ 'God/ 
'idea/ 'existence/ 'truth' and, of course, 'reality' 
are especially prone to ambiguity in a metaphysical argu- 
ment. In the case of some of these words it is not always 
possible to be completely clear, but there is need to dis- 
tinguish their several meanings as clearly as possible lest 
every discussion in which they are used become vague 
and fruitless. When Pope Pius XI declared in a recent 
encyclical that birth control was "contrary to nature" 
he was attacked by a writer in The New Republic^ who, 


through suggesting a good definition of 'nature' in terms 
of modern biology, had no trouble in showing that in 
terms of nature thus defined the Pope's statement was 
false. What the critic, however, apparently did not 
realize was that since the Pope and he were attaching 
different meanings to the word 'nature' his criticism 
largely missed its mark. The 'nature' of anything, in 
thomistic philosophy, involves the fulfillment of an ideal 
end which in the case of man is interpreted by reason and 
faith to include dedication of the sexual act to the pro- 
duction of offspring. A more appropriate criticism of 
the encyclical, therefore, would have begun by making 
explicit its implied definition of 'nature' and then have 
adduced reasons for rejecting it together with the authori- 
tarian realm of values that it implies. Again, Herbert 
Spencer's argument that "Empty space is unthinkable, 
because a^jhought is a thought of something^ rests on 
the ambiguity^p^ffie^^^ ' 

and 'nothing^; jmdjthe pft^ 

^' is a reminderjof how radically the word 

^ _ 

' God' differs according to the in tergsts*. JMntaMiabi ts, 
private^experiences, .and^5^1 u _S of the speaker. 

"Oh a still more abstract plane* tEe word 'truth' has 

i f _ --------- 

proved immensely troublesome and jhilosoghers_.jiave 
fillecr many HBooKs" upholding tHls o that_doctrine of 
wKatTfutR, "in the last Analysis, is. Whatever advantages 
such disputes may offer as intellectual exercises or as 
indirectly throwing light on other, more meaningful 
problems, it seems e viden t that the question asjgenerally 
formulated errs in failing tqjbake accounFoTThejyjyrious 
uses^ to whichjJie .,word 'truth/ must necessarily be put 
and the consequently various ways of establishing truth 
that there must necessarily be. Scientific experiment 
establishes certain kinds of truth, inward conviction is a 
sufficient and only possible way of establishing other 


kinds, intellectual consistency establishes still others, 
while predominantly practical considerations establish 
a fourth kind. In everyday life we use all of these tests 
to some extent, thus according implicit recognition to the 
ambiguity of the word. Theories which in the interest of 
a unified doctrine try to establish some one of them as 
'the only valid' test are insufficiently critical toward the 
necessary ambiguities of the word. 

A fallacy that plays an important part in much meta- 
physical reasoning consists in a confusion between dia- 
lectic and speculation. A speculative judgment is a 
descriptive judgment that is to say, a judgment of 
fact, a judgment whose meaning does not preclude the 
logical possibility of eventual verification but which 
cannot, as it happens, be at present verified. A specula- 
tive judgment, in other words, is a judgment that would 
have the status of an hypothesis if there were more 
specific evidence to support it. It is either true or false, 
only we can't know which; whereas a judgment arrived 
at by genuinely dialectical method is made true or false 
by an acceptance or rejection of the meanings it expresses. 
Arguments about immortality often make use of this 
fallacy. When most people speak about a belief or dis- 
belief in immortality they are talking about a personal 
immortality, a survival of the individual personality 
after the body's death. Immortality defined in this way 
is precise enough to make 'belief in it something more 
than a matter of dialectic: either it is a fact that we do 
survive in this sense or it is a fact that we don't; though 
there may be no way at present of knowing. An a priori 
demonstration of immortality, however, such as the one 
which Plato in the Phaedo puts into the mouth of Socrates 
that only what is dissoluble can die and only what is 
compound is dissoluble, whence the soul, because it is 
the principle of unity of the body's various functions, 


cannot die and must be immortal says nothing about 
the actual survival in time of a man's personality. It 
says only that a principle of unity is indestructible; and 
since a principle of unity is not an event that either will 
or will not actually be destroyed at some future time, 
but a concept arrived at dialectically, whose indestructi- 
bility is therefore made true by definition, the argument 
is immune from refutation only at the cost of saying 
nothing whatever about anyone's actual future state. 

A special danger in metaphysical reasoning is found in 
the tendency to attach too much importance to ideologies. 
An ideology is defined by Webster as a "visionary specu- 
lation; idle theorizing; also, an impractical theory or 
system of theories." As used in recent philosophical 
discussions, however, it has come to mean an imagined 
picture of reality which may be very practical indeed for 
organizing a number of otherwise scattered details of 
knowledge, but which is by its nature never directly 
verifiable, being defined in such a way as to be either self- 
contradictory or inconsistent with the postulated condi- 
tions of direct verification. An ideology is, in short, an 
hypostatization of a methodology; and since a methodol- 
ogy may, for practical reasons, select and ignore elements 
in combinations that could not possibly be actually 
present together in one experience, it often turns out 
that ideologies are not only unverifiable but impossible 
even to believe in without lack of consistency. Atoms, 
universal Progress, and many popular notions of God are 
ideological. An atom is supposed to have only primary 
qualities, to be therefore colorless. But in any clear 
picture we form of an atom it obviously must have some 
color or it could not be visually distinguished. The real 
atom, then, is fundamentally different from the mental 
pictures that are appealed to when talking about it (as 
when it is likened to billiard balls), but this discrepancy 


is overlooked because of the atom's being in any case too 
small to be actually visible however much magnified, 
since by the hypothesis on which it is affirmed it is too 
small to affect sufficiently the vibratory motions of light- 

Suppose someone began to talk seriously of a man seeing an 
atom through a microscope, or better perhaps of cutting one in 
half with a knife. There are a number of non-analytical people 
who would be quite prepared to believe that an atom could be 
visible to the eye or cut in this manner. But anyone at all 
conversant with physical conceptions would almost as soon 
think of killing the square root of 2 with a rook rifle as of cutting 
an atom in half with a knife. One's conception of an atom is 
reached through a process of hypothesis and analysis, and in the 
world of atoms there are no knives and no men to cut. If you 
have thought with a strong consistent mental movement, then 
when you have thought of your atom under the knife blade, 
your knife blade has itself become a cloud of swinging grouped 
atoms, and your microscope lens a little universe of oscillatory 
and vibratory molecules. If you think of the universe, thinking 
at the level of atoms, there is neither knife to cut, scale to weigh, 
nor eye to see. The universe at that -plane to which the mind of the 
molecular physicist descends has none of the shapes or forms of 
our common life whatever. 1 

Universal progress is another such ideology an on- 
ward and upward movement of history, which (i) could 
never be proved since the only evidence for it is got by 
making proper selections of events to be used as evidence 
and putting proper emphasis on them, and this selection 
and emphasis is in turn based on a prior belief in progress, 
whence the argument becomes question-begging; and 
(2) which could not even be consistently believed in, for 
progress can have some meaning only with reference to a 
comparatively static goal and a comparatively static stand- 

1 H. G. Wells, First and Last Things, pp. 39-40. 


ard by which degree of nearness to the goal can be esti- 
mated, whereas the usual liberal-romantic-humanitarian 
view of progress rejects the notion of a goal or standard. 
Again, God is an ideology, or likely to be, since the sym- 
bols by which he is represented, if we forget to regard them 
as symbols and take them for the reality itself, are likely to 
consist of pictures projected into the real world which are 
not in the least visually similar to anything actually found 

(1) The fallacy of metaphysical reduction. The fallacy 
consists in setting up one aspect of things or one type 
of experience as Reality,' reducing all other aspects, so 
far as they are not simply ignored, to the status of 'mere 
appearance/ or interpreting them as expressions or distor- 
tions or functions or by-products of what is set up as real. 
Actually, of course, every situation has many aspects, 
and which of them is to be stressed depends on the 
interests at stake in making any given formulation. A 
man's anger may be explained by a chemist in terms of a 
more rapid vibration of molecules in the blood, by a physi- 
ologist in terms of an increase of oxidation and adrenalin 
secretion, by a psychologist in terms of the instinctive and 
conditioned responses that have been aroused, together 
with their accompanying emotions after excitation of 
afferent nerves by a certain stimulus, while the man him- 
self would probably explain it in terms not of his own 
organism at all but of the, let us say, insolent conduct 
of the person who 'made him angry/ For most human 
purposes the last explanation is the truest, though for the 
technical purposes of science one of the other explanations 
might properly be called, in a more specialized sense, true. 
The fallacy of metaphysical reduction occurs when this 
attitude of dialectical tolerance is abandoned and some 
one of the explanations is set up as the 'ultimately true' 


The fallacy takes many forms. Idealists who explain 
away all matter as 'nothing but' mind or ideas, and 
materialists who explain away mind and ideas as 'nothing 
but' some arrangement of physical processes, when both 
had originally got their notions of what is meant by mind 
or ideas on the one hand and by matter or physical events 
on the other through their contrast with each other, are 
alike victims of the fallacy. The 'economic materialism' 
of Friedrich Engels and in general of the philosophical 
spokesmen of Soviet Russia, which regards the individual 
and his individual ideals as ' merely ' an effect or expression 
of social movements, is another example of the fallacy; 
and the opposite paradox known as 'solipsism' that I 
alone exist and that other persons are only the ideas I 
have of them or the interest I take in them would be, 
if anyone were to hold it seriously, another. 

Or again, the fallacy may enter into discussions about 
value, taking here most commonly the form of a reduction 
of values to facts. Reduction of the values of love to the 
facts of sex attraction or of questions of esthetic excellence 
to 'mere matters of taste' are fashionable examples. A 
value can be regarded as a fact, of course, for it is a fact 
that someone or some group of people holds such a value; 
but the problems arising from the value itself and from 
the facts associated with it are fundamentally distinct. 
A proposition p of the form '# is good' is not identical 
with another proposition q which has the form "So-and-so 
believes />." The former is an affirmation of value, and 
while it could never be finally proved to someone who 
chose to affirm different values it might well be discussed 
by dialectic, its consequences worked out, its meanings 
expanded. The latter proposition, on the other hand, is a 
statement of fact: it is either true or false, and while its 
truth or falsity may perhaps be difficult to determine, we 
nevertheless assume that it is verifiably one or the other 


and that the evidence by which it might be established 
is mainly empirical in character. 

The reduction of values to the factual question of the 
origin, whether in the history of the individual or of so- 
ciety, of belief in those values is sometimes called the 
genetic fallacy. Because anthropological researches have 
uncovered intimate relations between early religions and 
sex, religion is sometimes supposed to be thereby dis- 
credited. Aristotle's important principle, that "the true 
nature of anything can be studied best in its developed 
form," is too often forgotten. Mr. F. R. Earp declares, 
referring to Greek religion, 1 that " the only meaning we can 
safely ascribe to a rite is that which was assigned to it by 
those who performed it. ... We cannot discover it from 
possible origins. Many years ago I remember hearing 
Miss Jane Harrison say in triumph, after tracing the origin 
of some local cult of Zeus: 'There! I knew that Zeus was 
only that old snake.' The whole fallacy of this method 
lies in that word 'only'." 

(2) General criticism of the fallacy. The logical 
principles already discussed offer a sufficient methodology 
for criticizing the fallacy of metaphysical reduction. The 
following summary of its principal faults may, however, 
be added: 

(i) Any argument in support of metaphysical reduction 
is necessarily question-begging. To prove, for example, 
that the soul does not exist, scientific psychology must 
first tacitly define existence in terms of such categories as 
public verifiability and membership in a causally deter- 
mined series of events, and then show that in the series 
of events that has been constructed by reference to such 
categories there is no evidence that such a thing as soul 
exists. This, however, refutes merely the ideological as- 
pect of what is meant by 'soul'; it does not touch the 

1 The Way of the Greeks, p. 87. 


inner, self-evident principle of selfhood to which intro- 
spection testifies, because it rules out introspection 
that is, it declares the results of introspection irrelevant 
to its method, and therefore outside its realm of discourse. 
But in declaring the results of introspection outside its 
realm of discourse science does not declare them false: 
it declares that from its standpoint they are neither true 
nor false; it declares its own incompetency to deal with 
them. Again, in Hugh Elliot's statement, "Life is a 
name for the physico-chemical processes peculiar to pro- 
toplasm, and when those peculiar reactions cease, life is 
extinct/' * the first part of the statement is frankly a 
definition of the word 'life' in physico-chemical terms. 
But that definition makes the second part of the statement 
tautologous: it becomes equivalent to "When those 
peculiar reactions cease, they (since the word 'life' has 
been stated to mean them) are extinct." But that life as 
a continuation of personal consciousness is extinct, is 
neither affirmed nor denied; since life in this (more usual) 
sense of the word is admittedly not being discussed. 

(ii) Not only can the exclusive reality of some one 
realm of discourse not be proved; it would be in any 
case meaningless to assert it. For by the Principle of 
Significant Assertion, it is required that in any genuine 
proposition: (a) the terms which the proposition relates 
shall each mean something, which implies that what tliey 
mean shall be distinguishable from what they do not mean, 
and (V) the meaning of each shall be distinguishable from 
the meaning of the other. A statement of metaphysical 
reduction violates both these requirements. By re- 
quirement (a), to say "Everything is x" (where x may 
stand for physico-chemical processes or ideas or God) 
has meaning only if x also has meaning. Consequently, 
we must conclude that either the proposition "Every- 

1 Modern Science and Materialism , p. 101. 


thing is #" is false or 'everything* is limited to mean 
'the entire realm of discourse determined by having the 
characteristic x.' But in that case the proposition be- 
comes "The entire realm of discourse determined by 
having the characteristic x is (has the characteristic) 
#"; which is tautologous, violating requirement (b). 

(iii) The fallacy can be interpreted as an unjustified 
extension of what in science is called the Principle of 
Parsimony. This means, as we saw in the last chapter, 
whittling down the problem to what is strictly relevant 
to it, and in the case of science, interpreting relevance 
in terms of physical categories. For science this inter- 
pretation is necessary, but since the problem of meta- 
physics is the problem of relating, in logical terms, the 
various realms of discourse to one another, metaphysics 
is not justified in limiting its judgments in any such 

(iv) The positive meaning of a statement of meta- 
physical reduction is a statement of the terms in which 
a group of dominant problems, constituting a realm of 
discourse, is to be expressed. A given science will neces- 
sarily treat all other aspects of experience as springboards 
into its own realm of discourse; that is, the other aspects, 
when noticed at all, are noticed simply as signs of the 
presence of meanings which the science has defined as 
relevant. To a dentist the pain that a patient feels is a 
sign of a physical condition around the dental nerve, at 
which the dentist can look. But it would be absurd to 
therefore tell the patient that only the looked-at tooth is 
real and that the felt pain is unreal. In fact, the dentist, 
because he is human as well as professional, might on 
looking at the tooth accept the tooth's visual appearance 
as a sign of the pain that he infers the patient to be feeling. 
In the same way a behaviorist, when by introspection he is 
aware of himself as thinking, uses that fact as merely 


a sign of some different fact, such as the vibration of his 
larynx, which has membership in the physiological realm 
of discourse to which behaviorism refers. But applied 
behaviorism and most behaviorists are willing to make 
applications of their science might validly reverse the 
sign-meaning relation here involved: watching another 
person's larynx in motion a behaviorist might, with 
laudable inconsistency, infer that the other person was 
undergoing the experience called thinking. 

(v) It should be observed that metaphysical reduction 
is, properly speaking, fallacious only when the statement 
of reduction is interpreted as a factual or descriptive 
proposition. And what the above criticism amounts to 
is the demonstration that, except for the indirect definitive 
sense suggested by (iv), a descriptive proposition of this 
kind is not false but impossible: in spite of the verbal 
appearance, there is no such proposition. If, however, 
we interpret the metaphysical reduction in the manner 
recommended at the close of the preceding section, as an 
affirmation of value, there remains at least the possibility 
of justifying it on grounds to which this logical criticism 
may not be wholly relevant. This possibility will be kept 
in mind throughout the discussion in Part II, and will be 
more explicitly considered, in the analysis of belief in 
Chapter XI, and in Chapter XIII. 

The following chapters will be devoted to a study of 
several of the most general and important realms of 
discourse, and the problems suggested by a metaphysical 
inquiry into each. This juxtaposition of diverse types 
of problem will offer a stimulus for applying the view 
of philosophy already accepted in theory: a view of 
philosophy as at once critical and synoptic, recognizing 
and making articulate the dominant categories and prob- 
lems of each realm of discourse while at the same time 


relating these to interests and meanings articulated from 
other fields of experience. Even the manner of articula- 
tion must not be too narrowly conceived. In Chapters 
VII-X, which deal with the sciences, the self, and society, 
our method must be so far as possible logical; but in 
approaching Chapters XI and XII, which deal with re- 
ligion and esthetics, we must become critical toward even 
logical method itself, and inquire how far these realms 
can give articulate expression to meanings with which 
logic has only a casual acquaintance. 




The most imposing ideologies of the modern world have 
grown out of the physical sciences. We shall in this 
chapter examine in a necessarily limited fashion their 
method and the account they give of physical reality^ 
together with certain problems which arise when this 
account is mistakenly believed to be legislative for ex- 
perience in general. 


By 'the common-sense world' is meant the world we 
all of us most of the time live in. It is the familiar world 
around us that we see, touch, feel, taste, and smell. 
It is the world which we know when we first begin to 
think; and consequently the starting point for the more 
complex disciplines of religion, philosophy, and science. 
Not unreasonably, therefore, we may suppose that re- 
ligion, philosophy, and science, however far they may de- 
part from the world of common sense, should maintain 
intelligible relationships to it. As we have seen it is not 
the given, but the given interpreted though interpreted 
for the most part unconsciously and automatically. 

Among the physical aspects of the common-sense world 
perhaps the most striking are objects a countless number 
of separate objects: chairs, people, trees, stars, books, 
stones, flowers, animals, riveting machines, mountains. 
These objects are colored such and such a color, taste 
pungent or sweet or insipid, feel hard or soft, on occasion 



give off smells and sounds. They are arranged spatially, 
near together or far apart, above, below, behind, in front 
of each other; they persist through time, from hour to 
hour or day to day or even from century to century. If 
there were not more or less enduring objects, life would 
no doubt be too complicated to live. We have to count 
on finding our house where we left it in the morning, and 
our pen still on the desk. Yet there are complex problems 
connected even with so apparently simple a notion as an 
object: for instance, what happens to objects when no 
one is looking at them? 

These objects behave in accordance with fairly stable 
laws which hold through time. Unconsciously we have 
learned about many of these laws, and this knowledge too 
is demanded by the necessities of living: we must know 
how to get out of the way of falling bricks, not to walk on 
water, not to punch windows or try to go through closed 

Nevertheless, in spite of the stability manifested in 
objects and laws, change is no less striking a characteristic 
of the world of common sense. By change we do not 
mean here the ceaseless change of the contents of our con- 
sciousness, but change in the world that seems to be, some- 
how, outside of us. We know this change first of all in our 
own bodies: we grow older, mature, and die. But in- 
organic objects, in the same inexorable way, are subject 
to change: this suit is wearing out, will some day be 
discarded, and will gradually disintegrate; this building 
is being continuously worn by weather and use; the log 
in the fire burns and disappears. The mystery of this 
change, of this flickering of objects in and out of existence, 
is not clarified by the common-sense laws which are them- 
selves changing, and subject to innumerable exceptions. 

Change, and the lack of order and consistency among 
the objects and laws of the common-sense world, though 


stimulating, have certain practical disadvantages; and 
are furthermore, from some points of view, unsatisfyingly 
irrational. The physical sciences set out to solve in some 
measure this irrationality; to order, predict, and thereby 
control physical events on a widely comprehensive scale. 
In doing so they develop the picture of a physical world 
far different from the familiar world around us. 


In spite of wide differences among the views of in- 
dividual scientists and philosophers, from the days of 
Galileo until the beginning of this century there was a 
fairly large common body of opinion held about the nature 
of the physical world. In this section certain of its more 
important features will be outlined. 

(1) Determinism. In Chapter V the general charac- 
teristics of scientific method were discussed. All of these 
apply in the development of the physical sciences. In 
understanding what is meant by scientific 'rationality' 
determinism is of particular importance. As we have 
seen, scientific reasoning must postulate the probabil- 
ity of determinism in any given instance. Classical 
physics, however, held to the doctrine of universal de- 
terminism. This was not a methodological assumption, 
but a theory or belief about the nature of physical reality. 
In accordance with this belief it was thought that the 
'laws' of common sense which are so evidently partial, 
and to which so many exceptions occur, could be dis- 
covered to be dependent upon a limited number of uni- 
versal laws to which there were no exceptions. We have 
already studied the methods by which such laws are 
supposed to be investigated. 

(2) The principle of identity. One of the fundamental 
perhaps the most fundamental criteria of rationality 


in the physical sciences is what has sometimes been called 
the principle of identity. Just what is meant by this 
principle will become clear only by observing its influence 
in shaping the primary laws and concepts of the physical 
sciences. It was summed up in the ancient world by 
the phrase Ex nihilo fit nihil ("Out of nothing, nothing 
can come."), and in more modern times by such phrases 
as "All change is transformation." A disturbing feature 
of the common-sense world we found to be * creation/ 
the coming into and going out of existence. Scientific 
reason seeks to remove this disturbance by considering 
creation an 'illusion/ and explaining change as no more 
than the transformation of what was already there. Since 
change and genuine creation are the most obvious charac- 
teristics of the common-sense world, it is evident that the 
application of this principle will involve us in subtle and 
devious complexities. 

(3) Quality and quantity. In organizing experience one 
of the primary distinctions we make is that between 
quality and quantity. What is meant by quality is 
suggested roughly by the question, "What kind of?"; 
quantity, by the question, "How much of ? ". A symphony 
is a different kind of thing from a glass of water; a taste, 
from a color; hot, from cold. These are qualitative 
differences. But two pounds of lead are the same kind of 
thing as one pound of lead; the difference here is quanti- 
tative. For common sense the distinction often blurs: 
we are likely to think of scarlet as 'more red' than pink 
(quantitatively different); but purple we sometimes think 
of as a quantitatively distinguished red, sometimes as a 
(qualitatively) different color. 

In some sense or other all experiences are qualitatively 
different. Scarlet, red, pink, purple, if we emphasize a 
qualitative approach, are all undoubtedly different colors. 
Qualities, such as red, do recur in experience, and we say 


that we are seeing ' the same color/ but experience during 
the interval has changed, however slightly, the qualitative 
context in which the red again is found. Nevertheless, 
for the purposes of science, quantity has an inestima- 
ble advantage over quality: quantity admits completely 
of mathematical handling, and mathematics are the most 
powerful method of scientific reason. It is not true, as is 
sometimes thought, that mathematics can do nothing with 
qualitative differences. Qualities can be arranged in 
series, and modern mathematics has developed ingenious 
ways of dealing with series. Without knowing anything 
about the physical theory of acoustics, a musician can 
order the sounds he hears in a series of tones each one of 
which is 'lower' or 'higher' than any other; or a painter 
his colors. With such an arrangement of sounds or colors 
great symphonies and paintings might be produced; but, 
each color and sound remaining essentially different in the 
series, the knowledge of these arrangements, even when 
refined by abstract mathematical devices, would be 
bulky and unwieldy, incapable of easy communication, 
and dependent largely upon the accuracy of individual 
perception. It is the kind of knowledge an artist must 
have, but in which the scientist is only indirectly in- 

In the case of sound the scientist correlates these quali- 
tative differences with the motions of waves in the air. 
All sounds can then be studied as fundamentally 'the 
same': that is, they differ only quantitatively in the 
length, frequency, and the other measurable differences 
in the air waves. Thus one sound can be thought of as 
'twice' another, or as 'compounded' of two other sounds; 
and, in general, all sounds can be mathematically re- 
lated in all conceivable ways. Qualitative differences are 
thus gradually ruled out of physical reality. And one 
of the difficult philosophical problems which arise from 


the physical sciences becomes the study of the relation 
between qualitative differences and quantitative differ- 

In the shift from quality to quantity the influence of the 
principle of identity and the principle of simplicity (see 
p. 136) should be observed: for a world filled with count- 
less essentially differing qualities is substituted one with 
a smaller and smaller number of qualitative differences 
quantitatively intra-related. Though the beginnings of 
this shift are to be found in Greek and Roman science, 
the Aristotelian science, which was the leading system 
in Europe until the Renaissance, was fundamentally 
qualitative. Quantity, of course, has no meaning apart 
from some qualitative differentiation, but on the whole 
the tendency of modern science has been consistently 
away from quality toward quantity. In this century, 
the notion of quantity, which was as we shall see attached 
vaguely to notions of weight or bulk, has completed its 
assimilation to mathematics; and instead of characteriz- 
ing contemporary physical science as 'quantitative' we 
may more accurately use the less colorful adjective 
'metric' (capable of being dealt with by mathematics). 
From this point of view, the tendency of modern science 
may be thought of as toward the expression of all physical 
reality in terms of 'metric variations/ 1 

(4) Space. One of the governing ideals of physics is to 
make its world independent of the individual peculiarities 
of the observer. Whatever elements of experience are 

1 This is the modern equivalent of the doctrines founded by the brilliant 
though historically somewhat mythical Greek thinker, Pythagoras. Pythagoras, 
who lived in the sixth century B.C., is credited with the first proof of the geo- 
metrical theorem equating the square on the hypotenuse of a right triangle to 
the sum of the squares on the other two sides, and with the discovery of certain 
of the laws of harmonic relations. His followers, who combined curiously a 
mystically religious way of life and eager scientific investigation, taught that 
"All things are number." This belief, strange as it may at first sound, seems 
to be close to the metaphysical basis of modern science. 


due to my own individual situation, to the acuteness or 
dullness of my * sense perception/ to where I happen to 
be or what I am doing, to my emotions, attitudes, and 
interests no matter how vivid or valuable these ele- 
ments may be, are ruled out of physical reality, which thus 
aims to be a 'public' world, a world accessible to any 
observer whatever if he takes the right way to reach it. 
For this reason the physical world is often called ob- 
jective, in contrast to the subjective world in which are to 
be found individual peculiarities. This meaning of 'ob- 
jective' should, however, be kept clear from other mean- 
ings, from for instance the more generalized meaning 
taken up in Chapters II and III; and 'subjective' in this 
sense should not be confused with 'purely mental.' In 
the present connection these terms distinguish by a kind 
of shorthand the aspects of experience emphasized by the 
physical sciences directly, from those which the physical 
sciences treat only indirectly. 

In rudimentary experience spatial relations, according 
to which objects are arranged, are largely 'subjective/ 
Our judgments of spatial relations among objects (how 
far apart they are, how near us, how much above or below 
each other) depend upon our size, our eyesight, the clarity 
of the atmosphere, our profession, our general state of 
health and feelings. This is suggested by the terms of 
English spatial measurement, 'inch,' 'foot,' 'yard,' whose 
etymology connects them with the human body. And 
psychologists have studied the development of our 
knowledge of spatial relations, how it is connected with 
certain muscle feelings in the eye, with inhibited feelings 
of effort, etc. But so haphazard a space is hardly adequate 
for developed common sense, and it is useless for the 
purposes of science: it offends both pragmatically and 
theoretically. With objects so arranged one could not 
build buildings, bridges, or railroads; and one would be 


faced with a chaotic reality. The individual experiences 
of spatial relations are therefore, with great and imagina- 
tive intellectual labor, gradually structuralized into a 
coherent and ordered mathematical system. For classical 
physics this structure is represented by a Euclidean 
geometry of three dimensions, a three-dimensional coordi- 
nate system accepting the familiar Euclidean 'axioms.' 

Until recently it was believed self-evident that this 
geometry applied directly to physical reality interpreted 
objectively. And the usefulness of this supposition under 
ordinary circumstances is clear enough: even though the 
railway tracks seem to go together in the distance, the en- 
gineer disregards this 'appearance* when building the 
railway. Whether we have long or short legs, we can 
meet someone at a place 'a mile away/ and we can find 
our house 'in space* whether we are near or far sighted. 

Space thus provides an infinitely extensive framework 
wherein all objects from atoms to stars find a place, 
an enormous box stretching indefinitely in every direc- 

It was furthermore assumed by classical physics that 
this framework is indifferent. By this is meant that the 
laws that may be discovered hold everywhere in space; 
and that the 'essential properties' of bodies or objects 
are not changed by where they happen to be in space or 
how they happen to be moving through space. This 
assumption seemed to be necessary; for unless it were 
made we apparently could not be sure that what we dis- 
covered about objects and laws today would hold to- 
morrow, since tomorrow we shall presumably be in a 
'different part' of space. 

(6) Ether. The framework of space was thought to be 
filled with a hypothetical and mysterious substance called 
the ether. The ether was everywhere present in space, 
not only in 'empty' space but even all through apparently 


solid bodies. The notion of the ether was diversely sug- 
gested by the study of light and of electricity: both light 
and electricity seemed to be correlated in the manner of 
wave motions. The ether, then, was what the wave 
motions were in. 

(6) Time. In ordinary experience temporal relations 
are more obviously than spatial relations dependent upon 
the individual. Everyone has noticed the difference in 
the way 'time passes' when we are bored, excited, re- 
freshed, interested, ill, doing routine tasks or meeting 
some novel situation. With no feeling of paradox we 
speak of "the longest hour I ever spent " or, coming back 
from a vacation, say, "The weeks passed so quickly that I 
seem to have been gone only since yesterday." Time of 
this sort, the time of the so-called 'stream of conscious- 
ness' will not do for science. The individual experiences 
are pooled and structuralized, and physical time is thought 
of as a uniform 'one-dimensional continuum/ The spatial 
framework, with the objects it contains, moves somehow 
forward uniformly in a single direction (time differing 
from space, each of whose three dimensions has two direc- 
tions). Mathematical calculations dealing with this one- 
dimensional time are assumed to be independent of the 
observer. And this structure, too, while satisfying certain 
beliefs we have about the ordered nature that reality 
ought to have, works fairly well in practice: we can make 
an appointment with a friend for 3.00 o'clock and meet 
him then no matter what our individual experiences have 
been during the intervening hours. 

With perhaps one exception (the law of the increase of 
entropy), time also is usually assumed in classical physics 
to be an indifferent framework. That is, laws are supposed 
to hold throughout time, or perhaps better to be outside 
of time. It is, in fact, only with the help of this assump- 
tion that time is measured in practice. When ' the same 


thing happens ' that measures * the same time ' : the earth 
revolves on its axis and that is a day, the earth goes around 
the sun and that is a year. 

(7) Matter. We have seen that the behavior of objects 
in the common-sense world is in several ways disordered, 
and in particular that they have only a partial persistence 
through time. They are gradually or quickly disappearing 
and reappearing. The refusal to imagine discontinuity 
in existence summed up by the principle of identity makes 
science try to avoid this obvious fact by explaining it 
away in a coherent manner. Now since there can be 
no doubt that many aspects of objects do appear and dis- 
appear, the only solution seems to be through the notion of 
an enduring fundamental substratum. This substratum, 
which is called matter, persists: the change, the creation, 
the disappearance are only 'apparent/ are simply trans- 
formations of the fundamental matter. Clearly matter 
must be in some sense qualitative, since otherwise it would 
have no content and would provide only a shadow ex- 
planation for experience. But science strives to reduce 
the qualities of matter to a minimum, and to make sure 
that the retained qualities admit readily of mathematical 

Matter is from some points of view the most familiar 
of all notions; but the matter of the common-sense world 
objects heavy, colored, hot or cold, soft or hard, 
sweet or sour would not be suitable for physics. Most 
aspects of common-sense matter are unable to meet the 
tests of permanence, scientific objectivity, and mathe- 
matical adaptability: these aspects are assigned to the 
subjective, 'unreal' world, and the objective world is 
left only the remainder. The qualities of sweetness and 
sourness, for instance, are rejected almost at the outset: 
science reflects on the variability of sense organs, how the 
same wine tastes quite differently when we are well and 


ill, hungry and sated, how easy it is to think of a body 
apart from its sweetness or sourness, how difficult it is to 
give sweetness or sourness a publicly precise meaning 
apart from the presence of certain nerve endings in 
organisms ('taste buds'), etc. For similar reasons, almost 
all the familiar qualities of common-sense matter are 
ruled out heat, redness, softness, and the rest of what 
are known as 'secondary qualities/ The presence of 
secondary qualities in experience is explained by connect- 
ing them causally with events in the objective, physical 

One of the most apparent characteristics of common- 
sense matter is weight: most (though of course not all) 
objects we know have weight. Weight is a quality or prop- 
erty objectified from, primarily, certain kinesthetic sensa- 
tions experienced when we lift or try to lift objects. It 
has the advantage over most other qualities of seeming to 
lend itself more easily to metric treatment. It is not hard 
to think of weights as always more, or less, of 'the same 
thing'; unlike, for example, colors, whose qualitative dif- 
ferences seem to be the most important thing about them. 
All objects can be compared with respect to their weight, 
disregarding their other properties. Weight, then, with 
an important modification, came to be regarded as the 
universal and fundamental property of matter. This 
modification, however, involved a radical departure from 
the weight of common-sense experience. It was discovered 
by observation and experiment that the weight of an 
object varied slightly between measurements taken at 
the equator and nearer the poles; or at sea level and 
at the top of a mountain. The law of gravitation sug- 
gested an explanation of this variation. By the intro- 
duction of a factor called 'the gravitational constant* 
a new property called mass could be mathematically 
expressed as equal to measured weight divided by the 


gravitational constant for the place where the measure- 
ment was taken. It was this new property, mass, related 
thus only very indirectly to common-sense experience, 
that was held to be the universal, invariant, 'absolute' 
property of all matter. 

The development of the concept of mass is a most 
interesting study in the methods of science, but one too 
complex to enter into here. What is important in the 
present context is to realize how in this development 
theory (conscious or unconscious), observation, and ex- 
periment worked together. Unless scientists had some- 
how believed that there was some universal, invariant 
property of matter they would not have known how to 
look for it: familiar experience, naively regarded, hardly 
suggests it. Weight, like everything else, disappears, 
when water evaporates, when chemical compounds are 
joined or separated, when metals rust, when wood burns. 
More refined methods of measuring weight, careful experi- 
mental technique in collecting the residues, such as gases, 
of chemical decomposition, suggested that this disappear- 
ance was perhaps only illusory, that we think weight dis- 
appears only because we do not observe carefully enough. 
But it is even more important to understand that weight, 
or rather mass, after experiment singled it out as perhaps 
the most important property of matter for scientific pur- 
poses, soon left the field of experimental generalization 
altogether, and became the defining property of matter. 
That is, the proposition "All matter (the content of the 
physical world) has weight " changed gradually from a 
factual proposition having a certain amount of probability 
on its evidence to the structural or a priori proposition, 
"All matter has mass," defining what would be considered 
matter: it was, for a time at least in the development of 
science, necessarily true, because anything such as a 
mirage or a dream or an emotion which did not have 


mass would not have been considered matter. As such a 
structural proposition it was of great value in helping to 
clarify and direct scientific research, and to eliminate 
irrelevancies. It no longer depended for its truth directly 
on particulars, and would be abandoned only when seen 
to be inadequate in providing a workable category for 
the scientific way of handling experience. 

The mass of material bodies is manifested in inertia, the 
resistance of a body to change of motion, and gravitation, 
the tendency of bodies to approach one another. But 
mass alone is not sufficient to make matter comprehensi- 
ble, and certain other properties are added. Most of 
these are suggested by the discussion of space and time: 
they are such 'mathematical' properties as extension (the 
occupancy of space "All matter occupies space")* 
motion (which can be thought of as a relation between 
space and time), and one or two others. There was usually 
thought to be at least one non-mathematical, 'occult' 
(because difficult to understand) property, impenetra- 
bility. These mass, extension, motion, impenetrability 
are called 'primary qualities,' and define what classical 
physics meant, or tried to mean, by matter. 

The requirement of permanence is not yet, however, 
fulfilled. Defined by whatever qualities, common-sense 
matter does not seem to endure. Classical physics, there- 
fore, again mingling structure and experiment, thought of 
matter as fundamentally atomic, that is consisting of 
extremely small discontinuous particles. The atomic 
theory is, though somewhat distantly, related to theories 
held by the Greeks as well as by Arabian and Hindu 
philosophers. It holds that the objects of common sense 
are composed of large aggregates of the small particles, 
or atoms, defined by the primary qualities, and that these 
atoms endure, no matter what seems to happen to the 
common-sense aggregates. 


(8) Mechanism. In Chapter V the concept of 'cause' 
was discussed from a logical point of view. But this 
logical concept is rather more abstracted than what often 
seems to be meant by a 'physical cause.' The physical 
relation of cause and effect seems to be not simply a 
general connection between a and b, but to involve some- 
thing more tangible that we try to refer to by 'force.' 
The notion of force and of active physical cause is derived 
from experiences familiar to everyone: experiences in 
which we, as active beings, bring about changes in the 
physical world. I will to lift my arm, and my arm rises; 
I push a door and it opens; I pull a rope and it comes 
toward me. The power or force I feel myself exerting 
over the physical world manifests itself, when effective, 
always in motion, in the increase, alteration, or decrease 
of the motions of physical bodies. 

In classical physics this experience is structuralized to 
apply to the objective physical world apart from my inter- 
vention. Motion, through which force manifests itself, 
becomes identified with cause. The fundamental and 
ultimate cause of all that happens, whatever may be the 
appearances, is the motions of the material atoms. Not 
all scientists accepted this doctrine; but in so far as they 
did, classical physics was mechanistic: when any phenom- 
enon was reduced to motion, it was 'explained.' The 
temperature of a body rises? this is 'because' there has 
been an increase in the rate of molecular vibration. A 
billiard ball moves? this is 'because' another billiard ball 
in motion has hit it and imparted its motion; funda- 
mentally, because of the impacts of the innumerable 
atoms that make up the billiard balls. This sugar tastes 
sweet? this is 'because' the rapidly moving molecules of 
the sugar set the molecules composing various 'taste 
buds' into motion of a certain sort, and thence spring 
other motions along the nerves to the cerebral cortex. 


(9) The conservation laws. The complete rationality 
of the world of classical physics was summed up in the 
'conservation laws.' Many of the basic laws, not usually 
regarded as such, are actually conservation laws. For 
instance, Newton's first law of motion, which states that 
a body continues in a state of rest or of uniform motion 
in a straight line unless acted upon by some external 
force, is in a sense a law of the 'conservation of velocity.' 
Better known is the ambiguously termed law of the 'con- 
servation of matter.' This does not apply, as we already 
know, to the general notion of matter, not to any of the 
secondary qualities, and to one only of the primary quali- 
ties. It should properly be called the law of the 'conser- 
vation of mass.' It states that the mass of any system 
is a constant, is the same no matter what transforma- 
tions the system undergoes. 

The law of the 'conservation of energy ' is more complex. 
It is first necessary to separate the concepts of kinetic 
energy, the energy of motion, and potential energy, the 
energy (as it is sometimes called) of position. Thus in 
a mechanical system such as a pendulum, when the pen- 
dulum is at the bottom of its swing it is going fast and 
has a relatively 'large amount of kinetic energy. But 
it goes slower as it rises higher, and for a moment at 
the top of its swing is at rest. The conservation law 
states, however, that the potential energy when it is 
at rest exactly makes up for the loss of motion; at all 
times during the swing the summation of the two forms 
of energy is equal. But if this were true it would seem 
to follow that the pendulum should swing forever, which 
it does not. The law explains this as follows: through 
friction a certain amount of the mechanical energy 
(kinetic and potential) is transformed into the radiant 
energy, heat; the motion gradually slows down, but the 
total amount of energy motion plus heat remains 


the same. Of course motion and heat cannot be com- 
pared directly, so metric equivalents for the two must 
be found so that one form can be equated with the 
other. The concept of energy is abstracted to include 
both motion and heat, and the law means that the total 
amount of energy, understood in this sense, in a system 
remains constant. 

It is of the greatest importance to note that the con- 
servation laws, though experiments can give them in 
weaker forms a certain amount of plausibility, are all 
structural and a priori. No experiment could possibly 
prove them. They are definitive devices for ordering 
the physical world, and in them we can see working both 
the demand for law (determinism) and even more signifi- 
cantly the principle of identity. To order physical phe- 
nomena according to law it would not be necessary to 
suppose that throughout occurrences there was something 
that remained 'the same/ that endured. Change could 
be as lawful as transformation. But science is not satisfied 
with lawful change. There must be something velocity, 
mass, energy that endures, and whose 'form' alone 
changes. To secure this the conservation laws are forced, 
it can readily be seen, to rather devious expedients. We 
can have no kind of direct acquaintance with velocity, 
mass, or energy. What, for instance, is meant by po- 
tential energy? Energy is measured by the work that gets 
done. But a body at rest (such as the pendulum at the 
top of its swing) does not work. What would have be- 
come of the energy if the body stayed at rest forever? 
Nevertheless, these laws help to structuralize physical 
reality, in what seemed to be the inevitable way. They 
have, furthermore, great heuristic value: if a chemist 
mixes elements together in a test tube, weighs the mixture 
and discovers the weight to be less than the sums of the 
weight of the individual elements before mixing, he decides 


(by the law of the conservation of mass) that something 
must have escaped in gas or some other way, or that he 
must have made a mistake in the weighing; the law of 
the conservation of energy will help an engineer to design 
the boilers of a locomotive that must pull a train at a 
certain speed; if a watch stops, the first law of motion 
expresses our feeling that their must be a 'cause* for its 
stopping, the removal of which will permit the watch to 
run again. 

(10) Entropy. The primary laws of physics tend, as 
we have seen in Chapter V, as well as in the preceding 
sections, to take the form of mathematical identities. 
The mass is always identical with the mass, the energy 
with the energy. Mathematical identities are logical 
equivalences, and reversible; they read either way. But 
if all physical laws took this form we should not only 
have a completely ordered reality, and change expressed 
throughout as transformation, but we should have elimi- 
nated even transformation. For the identities leave no 
room for time, they express no reason why anything at 
all should happen, or rather they give no indication that 
anything does happen, that one minute is different from 
the minute before. 1 Yet that this minute is different, 
that today is not the same as, is irrevocably other than 
yesterday, that things do genuinely happen, is for most 
people perhaps the distinguishing characteristic of ex- 
perience. Time and happenings, among the primary 
laws of physics, are saved by the second law of thermo- 
dynamics. This law states that there is one entity, which 

1 The conclusion from the principle of identity that nothing does happen, 
that reality is self-identical, was accepted by the Greek philosopher, Parmenides 
of Elea. Though he taught that strictly nothing more could be said than 
"Being is," he seems to have visualized being, or reality, as a motionless, 
undifferentiated sphere. Strange as this doctrine may seem at first acquaint- 
ance, the logical process which brought Parmenides to its statement is analogous 
to that involved in modern science. (Cf. the metric continuum, 'finite but 
unbounded,' of the relativists.) 


is called entropy, that does not remain the same, that is 
continually increasing. 1 

The concept of 'entropy/ when generalized for all types 
of physical modification, is too complex for elementary 
treatment. We can however trace its sources, as usual, 
in ordinary experience. The 'axiom,' "Heat cannot pass 
from a cold body to a hot body " (Claudius) seems obvious 
to common sense. If two blocks of iron, one of which has 
a temperature of 50 degrees and the other, 150 degrees, 
are placed contiguous to each other, we should expect 
(and our expectation would be verified by experiment as 
it is based on observation) that if any change occurred the 
hotter block would get cooler and the cooler block, hotter; 
not that the hot block would get still hotter and the cooler 
still cooler. This expectation may be related to more 
general characteristics of heat, energy, and 'work': heat 
is a form of energy, and energy is manifested through work 
that is done work taking the form of the lifting of 
material bodies, the production of change of motion in 
material bodies, in short of making things happen. But 
high temperature alone will not do work; work can be 
done only when there is a difference of temperature. A 
locomotive runs not merely because the temperature inside 
the boiler is high, but because it is higher than the tem- 
perature outside the boiler. The axiom stated above gets 
extended in the second law of thermodynamics to the 
principle that in any system the temperature tends to 
reach an equilibrium, so that, so far as the system itself 
is concerned, no more work can be done. This principle 
is connected with a still more generalized law that all 

* This is not the form which the law took when first stated. The word 
* entropy* did not appear for some time. But since entropy is so frequently 
referred to in current discussions, it seems advisable to mention it here. In 
passing it may be noted that increase of entropy is the basis for talk about the 
'running down of the universe,' and in general for remarks about the distant 
reaches of time. 


forms of energy tend to be dissipated into heat (through, 
for instance, friction, oxidation, etc.). We thus reach 
the view that in any physical system the total amount 
of energy is becoming less and less available to do work, 
to make anything happen. This view might seem to be in 
conflict with the law of the Conservation of Energy, but 
conflict is avoided in mechanistic theory by regarding the 
second law of thermodynamics as statistical. Heat is 
treated as the vibration of small particles, and the law 
deals with the average velocity of these particles rather 
than the ratio between their velocities: it is not the energy 
which decreases, but the availability of the energy to do 

It will be seen that this principle gives a 'direction to 
time/ Laws which when looked at mathematically are 
equivalences, are not reversible when applied to physical 
phenomena because in physical phenomena the later 
moment is distinguished from the earlier by a decrease 
in the availability of energy (an increase of entropy). 
So far as the principle is capable of any experimental 
verification, it applies to limited physical systems con- 
sidered in isolation from other physical systems. But 
many scientists at the present time extend the principle 
(quite unwarrantedly from a purely scientific point of 
view) to the universe 'in general/ and thus land them- 
selves in a baffling and insoluble group of questions promi- 
nent in newspapers, magazines, and the popularized books 
on physics: about the above mentioned running down of 
the universe, about how energy became available in the 
beginning, and the like. 

To sum up briefly the picture of physical reality derived 
from classical physics: There is a three-dimensional 
spatial framework advancing uniformly through a one 
dimensional time. In this framework are a countless 


number of eternal changeless particles defined by the 
primary qualities. These particles are in motion, acted 
upon by a small number of forces in accordance with a 
limited number of laws which, whether or not exactly 
the ones formulated, are certain and without exception: 
that is, the physical universe is causally determined 
or, as it is often phrased, 'Nature is uniform/ 


During the nineteenth century the inadequacies of the 
theoretical structure of classical physics became more and 
more apparent, and in the first years of this century it was 
thrown over. Unfortunately the new physics is so ex- 
tremely complex, and so bound up with advanced mathe- 
matics, that it is falsified greatly when put into ordinary 
words. Only a brief and vague attempt, therefore, will 
be made to outline some of the changes which are involved. 

Classical physics, as we have seen, grew rather directly 
out of common sense; it structuralized observations most 
of which could have been made by men unaided by exact 
instruments whenever their attitude toward experience 
led them to this kind of interpretation. But during the 
nineteenth century there were developed many extraor- 
dinary instruments of investigation, such as high power 
microscopes and telescopes, precise balances, the many 
devices through which electrical phenomena are studied, 
etc. There were also made discoveries of entirely new 
types of phenomena: electricity itself, new chemical 
elements, X-rays, radio-active minerals. In a sense, 
what these new instruments and new phenomena brought 
in were genuinely new aspects of experience. It is not 
therefore surprising that the classical structure, which 
grew up when these aspects were unknown, should have 
proved inadequate to provide for them. Classical physics 


was not thereby proved false; it was merely proved 
inapplicable to these extensions of experience, and can 
now be looked upon as a special case of the new physics, 
holding within definite limitations. 

(1) Some of the more glaring anomalies that became 
more clearly recognized in classical physics may be out- 
lined as follows: 

(i) The mechanical physical theories which have been 
treated above seemed to have no place for electrical 
phenomena, careful study of which began in the early 
nineteenth century. This left a gap which offended the 
ideal of mathematical unity and simplicity. 

(ii) The ideal physical atom, defined by the primary 
qualities, did not seem to fit in with the atom as studied 
by chemists. The chemical theory of atoms treated many 
different kinds of atom, defined by a great variety of 

(iii) We have seen that an 'ether' was supposed in 
which traveled light 'waves/ A wave theory of the prop- 
agation of electricity also made use of an ether. But 
the supposed necessities of explanation required the assign- 
ment of directly contradictory properties to the ether. 
The ether, in fact, became a dumping ground for left-overs 
that would not fit into the classical scheme, and a theo- 
retical scandal. 

(iv) The study of X-rays, radioactive substances, and 
certain chemical experiments, suggested difficulties in all 
traditional theories of the atom. 

(v) There was no way of explaining certain peculiarities 
in the motion of the fastest moving planet, Mercury, 
around the sun. Its motion as observed was not the mo- 
tion it should have had as deduced from the Newtonian 
theory of gravitation. 

(vi) There was no way of explaining the negative result 
of the Michelson-Morley experiment. This experiment 


was devised to determine the velocity of the earth through 
the ether. I/ 3 as classical theory demanded, the ether 
occupied all space and the earth was moving through it, 
and // light was a wave motion through the ether, then 
there would be a difference in the velocities of light rays 
measured in different directions at the same time (as in 
measuring water waves in a flowing river). Though the 
Michelson-Morley experiment could have measured a 
difference exceedingly small when compared to the veloci- 
ties in question, no difference at all was found. 

(vii) There was no way of explaining the indirectly 
observed behavior of particles moving at great velocities: 
e.g. the Beta particles emitted by radioactive substances. 
For instance, their mass seemed to increase, which was 
contrary to the classical theory of mass that we have taken 
up. , 

(2) The electrical theory of matter. Some of these 
anomalies were explained, and a much greater degree of 
theoretic unity was secured, through what was at first 
called the electrical theory of matter. This was introduced 
by Rutherford and Bohr during the first years of this 
century, though it had been suggested many years before. 
It holds that the atom is not the fundamental physical 
unit, but is itself composed of still smaller particles. 
Just how these smaller particles should be thought of is 
not at all clear. At first the atom was pictured as a minia- 
ture solar system, consisting of a positive charge of elec- 
tricity (the proton) in the center, with negative charges 
(electrons) whirling around it. This rather pleasingly 
imaginative ideology was succeeded by a long succession 
of theories such as the 'ring theory* and the 'jelly theory.' 
At the present time many scientists have abandoned the 
attempt to picture the interior of atoms, and content 
themselves with a purely metric treatment. The funda- 
mental unit is a 'quantum,' sometimes considered a 


quantum of energy, sometimes simply a 'probability 
function/ 'Quantum transitions' the physical behavior 
of the quanta are approached through advanced mathe- 

It is sometimes said that the 'break-up of the atom* 
involves the abandonment of 'matter* as a fundamental 
concept of the physical world. This, however, is a ques- 
tion of verbal usage. If by matter we mean the classical 
mechanical atom, matter is now 'reduced' to other units. 
But this is a somewhat arbitrary definition: the mechan- 
ical atom as conceived by nineteenth-century physicists 
is a comparatively new arrival, whereas theories of matter 
have been put forward since the beginnings of reflective 
thought. If we define matter, as has been suggested, logi- 
cally, as the hypothetical enduring physical substratum, 
the new theories are simply changing the physical content 
that we symbolize by the word. The philosophic and 
metaphysical problems connected with the notion of mat- 
ter remain, contrary to general opinion, pretty much the 

The new treatment of matter, it will be seen, provides 
at least the possibility of unifying electrical and mechani- 
cal theory, of reconciling physical and chemical atomism 
(all the various atoms being alike reduceable to metrically 
different quantum transitions), and of explaining X-rays 
and radio-activity. 

(3) The theory of relativity. Others of these anomalies 
have been partially cleared up by developments in what is 
called the theory of relativity. Relativity is chiefly asso- 
ciated with Einstein, but contributions to it have been 
made by almost all the leading contemporary scientists, 
and its formulation was made possible by experiments 
carried out in the last century, and above all by advances 
in theoretic mathematics made by such men as Minkow- 
ski, Riemann, Lorentz, and Fitzgerald. It should be 


understood that much of the reason for the general 
acceptance of relativity by physicists is not related to 
experimental difficulties, but to the elegance of its mathe- 
matical reasoning, to its conformity to the a priori re- 
quirements of factual hypotheses that were discussed in 
Chapter V. Through the relativity equations a small 
number of successful predictions dealing with physical 
events have been made that were not possible through the 
classical equations, but it is fair to say that these are a 
minor consideration. 

The name 'relativity* is in many ways most unfortu- 
nate. The theory of relativity does indeed hold that the 
metric units of classical physics are, in a special sense, 
relative; but it sets out to establish units that will not be, 
in this sense, relative. What made this possible was the 
recognition of certain assumptions of classical physics 
as assumptions. This in turn made possible the intro- 
duction of new assumptions; and both steps were de- 
pendent on a mathematics powerful enough to handle 
the new concepts. 

The fundamental metric units of classical physics were 
length (through which space was measured), time y and 
mass. It was assumed that these units were objective 
and * absolute* in the sense of being independent of the 
'frame of reference/ By 'frame of reference' is meant 
the system of coordinate axes in terms of which measure- 
ments are stated. To take a simple example, it means 
nothing to say that a person is 'ten miles away'; to 
define the person's position, we must include a statement 
of where the ten miles are away from, and in what direc- 
tion. Thus we shall define the frame of reference in 
terms of which our measurement gets physical meaning. 
This was of course recognized by classical physics: in 
fact Copernican astronomy was simply the recognition 
that a frame of reference treating the sun as at rest was 


more convenient than one in which the earth was treated 
as at rest. But classical physics assumed further that 
once you had found out your length (ten miles) in terms 
of any frame of reference, this was an objective measure- 
ment for all frames of reference. This assumption is 
included in what was called in the last section the 'indif- 
ference* of space. The same assumption applied to time: 
if it was determined from any point of view that two 
things happened an hour apart, this time measurement 
was good for all points of view. Of course an observer on 
a distant star might never think of measuring in hours 
(which are connected with the rotation of the earth), but 
if he did and if he could observe terrestial motions ac- 
curately and if he made suitable allowances for the veloc- 
ity of light (if he were making his observations by light 
waves), he could calculate in hours with the help of a 
simple mathematical transformation. And mass, the 
unit in terms of which matter is measured, was likewise 
held to be objective, for any particle the same for all 
frames of reference. 

These assumptions are bound up with the structuraliza- 
tion of space and time as distinct from each other. The 
theory of relativity holds, however, that from the stand- 
point of objective physical reality, space and time may 
be treated as different aspects of one continuum (which 
is sometimes referred to as space-time). The important 
corollary from this is that what is treated as space and 
what is treated as time depend (within certain limits) 
on the frame of reference in terms of which measurements 
are made. A mile measured from one frame of reference 
may not be 'the same length' as a mile measured from 
another frame of reference; an hour not 'the same time 1 ; 
amount of mass not the same amount. 

The view seems at first paradoxical, and it may be asked 
why, if there is this relativity of space and time, it was 


not noticed before the twentieth century. To this it may 
be replied that relativity has only a very distant relation 
to the world of common sense, and is concerned not with 
the relativity of the spatial and temporal aspects of 
familiar experience, but with the mathematical relativity 
of the physical space and time of classical physics. And 
with them only when the frames of reference concerned 
are moving with enormous relative velocity, velocities 
not encountered in ordinary experience. Such velocities 
are found, we saw, when studying Beta particles, veloci- 
ties relative to the frame of reference adopted by the ex- 
perimenter, that is the earth. And what is interpreted 
as the measured mass of Beta particles does behave as 
may be deduced from the theory of relativity: that is, 
the mass seems to be greater than if the particles were 
at rest or moving slowly. 

How little difference relativity makes at normal veloci- 
ties is suggested by the mathematical factor which appears 


i 2" c repre- 
sents the velocity of light in empty space. Almost all 
physical measurements are made with the help of light 
waves (that is, we watch what is going on, through a 
telescope, microscope, test-tube, or whatever it may be 
in fact, 'observe* is often treated as if synonymous with 
c see')^ Relativity assumes that the velocity of light in 
empty space, as measured from a frame of reference at 
rest relative to the source of the light, is a constant, and 
this velocity becomes in relativity physics a fundamental 
physical unit, replacing ordinary units of length, or time 
(velocity of course is a combination of space and time 
a space-time unit). Now in the equation, v represents the 
relative velocity of whatever is being measured. But the 
velocity of light is 186,284 miles per second. Nothing 
we ordinarily deal with goes more than a mile or two per 


minute, and very few things at that speed. (^V) 2 over 
( 1 86,284) 2 is a quantity so very small that it would never 
be noticed in even the most exact experiments; and the 

whole factor l/i -- ^ becomes simply i and does not 

affect the results, since anything multiplied or divided 
by i remains the same. 

It will be observed that the negative result of the 
Michelson-Morley experiment follows from the assump- 
tions of relativity. It should not however be inferred that 
the assumptions are wholly question-begging for that 
reason. Necessarily they are partly so; but they relate 
satisfactorily other phenomena than those included in 
the Michelson-Morley experiment; the laws of classical 
physics can be mathematically deduced from the rela- 
tivity equations, sometimes with corrections that seem 
experimentally justified; and the relativity assumptions 
have been advanced in a dialectically persuasive manner. 

Now, though the theory of relativity does not necessi- 
tate so great a change in ordinary physical laws as is 
sometimes supposed, it does require a complete renova- 
tion of the picture of physical reality supposedly based on 
classical physics. For neither space units nor time units 
can any longer be thought of as 'objective.' But with 
separate space and time units, 'objects/ as usually under- 
stood and as understood in classical physics, go also. 
An object is something whose spatial aspects can be 
abstracted from time, which has a 'position' in space 
apart from its position in time. A classical physicist 
could think of a slice of space taken at an instant in time, 
in which would be found a countless number of objects 
(atoms). But according to the theory of relativity, posi- 
tion in space has no objective physical meaning apart 
from position in time, nor has the notion of space at an 
instant (that is, the usual notion of 'simultaneity'). We 


must not think in terms of (spatial) length units and time 
units, but in space-time units. With the help of a power- 
ful instrument of mathematical analysis, the tensor 
calculus, this can be done; and when it is done the theory 
of relativity transcends relativity and sets up a new 
objectivity. Instead of objects situated in space and 
acted upon through time, the relativist thinks of events 
occurring in space-time (the continuum), separated by 
intervals. The analysis of these events and intervals into 
spatial points and temporal instants depends upon the 
frame of reference employed, and thus does not meet the 
tests of physical objectivity. But the intervals, thanks 
to the tensor, are the same for all frames of reference. 
The basic unit becomes a ray of light in empty space: 
the interval along such a ray is defined as zero interval. 
The physical world of the relativists is far less pic- 
turesque than the world of classical physics. In fact the 
more cautious relativists are content to give their conclu- 
sions in mathematical form, and abandon the attempt to 
make them imaginatively satisfactory to common sense. 
Substantial objects give way to events, feet and seconds 
to intervals. Space, time, and the ether as well, are re- 
placed by the metric continuum. The startling properties 
of the ether, the pull of gravity, force, even mass, become 
no more than metric variations of the continuum. This 
of course is the extreme relativist position, suggested by 
Einstein in a remark during a speech he delivered in 1930: 
"After 3000 years of human thinking space [i.e. the con- 
tinuum] remains the sole theoretical reality." It is a 
clear recognition of the mathematical ideal, and completes 
the de-anthropomorphization of physical reality begun 
during the Renaissance. The ideal is still, and doubtless 
will remain, hypothetical. At the present time, efforts 
are being made to bring about a theoretic conciliation 
between the new theories of matter and energy and the 


theory of relativity, as well as to provide more com- 
fortably for electro-magnetic phenomena in the continuum 
(Einstein admitted in 1931 his dissatisfaction with the 
effort he made toward the latter in 1929 by a paper on 
"The Initiary Field Theory"). 

(4) The principle of indeterminism. In Chapter V we 
saw that scientific laws approached the form of either 
invariant causal generalities or exact statements of proba- 
bility. The latter form was called statistical, chiefly 
because laws in this form are discovered, with the help 
of mathematics, through statistical analysis. Classical 
physics was causally deterministic; and a causal determin- 
ism supposes that all events are connected. as instances 
of general laws of the first form. Whether or not the 
known laws were exactly the right ones was a matter for 
further investigation; but in any case it was held that 
there were such laws, and that it was merely a question of 
knowing enough. If anyone knew enough about physical 
phenomena, he would know the small number of invariant 
laws by which phenomena were connected, and could 
predict the whole future and the whole past from an 
instantaneous observation. Classical physics was also, 
for the most part, mechanistic (see p. 214), though 
mechanism and determinism might very well be separated. 
Determinism can be looked upon as a methodological 
postulate, a logical device useful in scientific study; and 
mechanism as a particular form of causal theory. 

The new theories of matter are more or less obviously 
an abandonment of strict mechanism: cause is interpreted 
in terms of electricity or more generally of energy rather 
than of mechanical motion of atomic particles. But what 
is no doubt more important in the light of its possible 
metaphysical influences, the new theories have also 
brought about an abandonment of determinism. This 
has come from within physics itself, and has nothing to do 


with the criticism which philosophy has recurringly di- 
rected against determinism. For determinism physicists 
substitute what is often called the principle of indetermin- 
ism; and the whole notion of cause tends to disappear 
into the notion of probability. 

Like * cause/ the notion of 'probability' may be traced 
to sources in common-sense experience. It is connected 
with pragmatic requirements guiding the successful busi- 
ness of living, with easily recognized feelings we have 
about the way things happen. "Last night the moon 
had a golden ring; tonight no moon we see" and we 
shall probably therefore have a storm, so we had better 
get the ship, ready for it. Most gamblers have a highly 
developed attitude toward the intricacies of probability. 
As in the case of causal attitudes, the automatic genesis 
of probability attitudes may be traced psychologically 
to the frequency of past associations: if a and b have 
usually occurred together, they probably will again. Black 
clouds and rain usually have gone together and they 
probably will this time, though this time may of course 
be an exception. Most airplane passengers are safe, and 
probably on this trip I shall be; though I may, of course, 
not be. With the help of mathematics judgments of 
probability are structuralized and made objective, are 
removed from dependence upon the strength of the feel- 
ings of certainty or the gambling spirit an individual 
observer may have. So far as scientific procedure is 
concerned there is no great difference whether the achieved 
results are taken for universal causal laws or statistical 
probabilities. But though cause and probability have 
related sources in familiar experience, probability is a 
more sophisticated notion, marking an advance in dis- 
illusion. Like the theory of relativity, the principle of 
indeterminism is an advanced step in the mathematiciz- 
ing of experience; a further de-anthropomorphization of 


physical reality leaving it still more difficult to grasp 
imaginatively, to picture in firm and adequate symbols. 

To have decided that the classical laws dealing with 
gravitation, gases, electricity, chemical compounds, fric- 
tion, etc., express merely very high probabilities about 
what might happen would have been disconcerting enough, 
at least to certain types of mind. Practically, of course, 
there is little difference between extremely high proba- 
bility and certainty. If a 'universal' connection holds 
with only one possible exception out of many million 
instances that probability is high enough for all practical 
requirements. I sail to Europe knowing that there is a 
small probability that the boat may sink, but it is too 
small to affect my actions. If I think about it I am con- 
fident that the ceiling will not fall on me as I sit writing; 
though I realize there is a minute probability that it may. 
If it did fall, and if I lived to reflect on what had happened, 
I should not conclude that my knowledge of the physical 
world had been shattered, but rather that my knowledge 
was of a kind that gave high probabilities about connec- 
tions between some events: from many points of view 
there is no reason to expect any other kind of factual 
knowledge. But, as has been pointed out, classical physics 
took for granted that there were some certain and universal 
laws without exceptions connecting physical events, at 
least theoretically discoverable; or if not discoverable, at 
least theoretically 'there/ But the principle of inde- 
terminism rules out even this possibility, holding not 
only that our known laws are not absolute causal de- 
terminations, but that there is no physical meaning in 
absolute causal determination. If it is asked how we 
have been able to formulate laws seeming to hold fairly 
generally, this is explained as follows: the laws hold not 
because they express anything fundamental in the physical 
world, but because they are actually statistical approxi- 


mations derived from the behavior of large aggregates. 
They deal with observable bodies which are made up of 
countless numbers of electrons and protons, or quanta. 
The intra-atomic quantum transitions are undetermined 
and lawless (that is, governed only by the 'laws of 
chance'), but their statistical behavior approximates law- 
fulness, just as insurance statistics can approximate ex- 
actness in dealing with large numbers of people while 
telling nothing about what happens to any single individ- 
ual. Of course the behavior of quanta cannot be com- 
pletely undetermined, or not even statistics dealing with 
it would have any validity; that is, the possibilities must 
be limited (cf. Chap. V, pp. 156-8). But, within these 
limitations, not only do we know no laws exactly describ- 
ing what happens, but according to the principle of in- 
determinism there are no such laws to be known. 


From the beginnings of reflective thought men have 
been occupied with the allied questions, "What is real- 
ity?" "What is being?" "What, fundamentally, is?" 
In Chapter VI we have considered these questions in 
general, how they are actually many different questions, 
how difficult it is to understand them, and how in their 
statement lurk systematic and elusive ambiguities. Af- 
firmations about reality have arisen from widely different 
fields of discourse, from magic, religion, logic, social be- 
havior, etc. But in modern times the problem of reality 
has been bound up in a special manner with the physical 
sciences, and it is with this alliance that the present 
section is to deal. 

In the preceding sections we have indifferently referred 
to 'physical reality/ 'the physical world,' 'the objective 
world* (or simply 'the objective'). By all these phrases 


has been meant no more than this: those aspects of ex- 
perience with which the physical sciences deal; and by 
'the subjective/ simply those aspects with which the 
physical sciences do not deal. Just what the former 
aspects are is not something, of course, that was articu- 
lately decided by the founders of modern science; they 
have been gradually clarified and more sharply defined 
by the progress of the physical sciences themselves. But 
what we have now to analyze is not 'the physical* or 
'the objective* taken as categories defining the subject 
matter of the physical sciences, but ideologies growing out 
of the physical sciences and making use of some such 
assertion as "The physical world is the real world" or 
''Reality is physical" the substitution of the adjective 
real for the convenient methodological adjective objective. 
These statements are peculiarly complex at the present 
time for the following among other reasons: The physical 
world, whose general characteristics have been described, 
is from the standpoint of the world of common sense a 
very strange and unfamiliar place. Its content elec- 
trons, protons, photons, intervals, continuum are 
amazingly unlike the seemingly solid and easily under- 
standable objects which we meet in ordinary experience. 
This comfortable, firm chair I sit on dissolves into errati- 
cally vibrating indefinitely small concentrations of elec- 
tricity, or energy, almost into mathematical equations, 
that red pillow into curious waves or mere spheres of 
probability. This disparity, in the light of our analysis 
of the approach, methods, and requirements of physical 
science, should not appear so surprising; it might in fact 
appear to be the inevitable and natural result. The 
disparity has, nevertheless, served to make the problem 
puzzling and obscure. 

It should be observed that the problem of reality is a 
genuinely metaphysical, not simply a physical or scientific 


problem. The statement that the physical world is the 
real world, though it arises out of a particular realm of 
discourse, is on the surface at least a statement about the 
whole of experience, and the issue cannot be prejudged by 
taking for granted that it is to be settled from within 
physics itself. No matter how far physics 'advances/ the 
nature of consciousness enables us, if we wish to, still to 
investigate critically the context within which any state- 
ment based on physics is relevant. What we are now 
interested in, therefore, is not to speculate about possible 
discoveries that physical science may some day make. 
Many people derive a great deal of emotional satisfaction 
from such speculation, and it has a minor value in sug- 
gesting lines of possible scientific research though the 
history of science can teach us how arbitrary it is. Spec- 
ulation is made up of factual or descriptive propositions; 
it differs from legitimate scientific hypotheses in that the 
evidence upon which it is based is insufficient to lend more 
than a very small probability to the propositions. But 
the problem of reality is a critical or dialectical problem, 
and our analysis should be independent of the particular 
factual content of the propositions now accepted by sci- 
ence. Our endeavor should be to discover the meaning 
or rather the meanings of the problem of reality, here in 
so far as it is related to the physical sciences. 

(1) Emotive and pragmatic meanings. To the great 
increase of intellectual confusion, scientists, philosophers, 
and people generally have seldom recognized how largely 
the problem of the real is emotive. The adjective 'real' 
and the noun 'reality/ like 'true/ 'truth/ 'God/ 'vital/ 
'significant/ etc., are words packed with compelling emo- 
tional content. They confer honor and approbation on 
what they are applied to, like titles such as 'Sir* or 
'Prince.' To affirm or to deny that the physical world is 
the real world is, then, to express an emotive attitude 


toward experience in general. As suggested above, the 
character of the physical world as science now presents 
it to us makes this affirmation or denial at present par- 
ticularly disturbing. 

To understand this more fully we may contrast our 
physical world, or 'nature' as it is often called, with the 
physical world, the ' nature ' of the Middle Ages. We have 
several times remarked how science has steadily 'de- 
anthropomorphized* the physical world; it has, that is, 
gradually ruled out man with his most familiar and inti- 
mate concerns from nature. Very early in the process 
there went conscious purpose, love, hope, desire. Then 
the 'secondary qualities' and with them objects as com- 
mon sense knows them, objects as in most contexts they 
interest us, with their colors, smells, and textures. Finally 
we are left with the world of contemporary physics, defined 
almost wholly by abstract mathematical properties. The 
physical world of the Middle Ages presents a striking 
contrast. In the first place the earth was the firm and 
stable center. At no great distance (when compared with 
the immeasurable light years of modern astronomy) the 
moon, the sun, and the planets revolved within their 
allotted 'spheres.' Beyond them was the sphere of the 
fixed stars, and enclosing them all and the source of their 
motion, was the Primum Mobile, the limit of the universe 
of space and time, a universe limited, complete, and 
harmonious, like a well executed work of art. In this uni- 
verse Man occupied a central and dramatic position. He 
was the meeting place of matter (his body) and spirit 
(his soul). Far from being indifferent to him, the whole 
physical world was in a sense the stage on which he was 
to work out the drama of his own salvation. This world 
was not an impersonal aggregate of electrons behaving 
in accordance with complex mathematical equations; 
it represented a graded hierarchy of values y sustained 


throughout by the active creative force of God, the knowl- 
edge of whom was man's final aim. The great epic of 
the Middle Ages, Dante's Divine Comedy, ends with the 
line, "The Love which moves the Sun and the other 
stars." Thus man's place in the universe was integral and 
organic. But in the world of modern science man seems 
to be an accident, lost in the immensities of space-time, 
flourishing painfully on the meagre planet of a second-rate 
star. Or, in any case, a feeling that this is the situation 
seems to result from identifying the physical world as the 
real world: if it is real, then nearly everything that is 
important to man, the values that he cherishes, his desires 
and fears, even what he seems to see and feel, are unreal. 
By a process of verbal association, unreal is linked with 
illusory, trivial, not important. And we find that the 
'reality' of the physical world is no longer a matter of 
describing or defining, but a question of emotional ad- 

The emotional adjustment proceeds in two directions. 
In one there is the group who state that the physical world 
is the real world, and who derive emotive satisfaction 
from "courageously facing the facts" (or perhaps in a 
paradoxically comforting despair: the logical foundation 
is the same) and at the same time cherishing what are 
after all our 'illusions.' Prominent among this group is 
the English philosopher, Bertrand Russell, from whose 
essay A Free Man's Worship we may illustrate the atti- 

That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision 
of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his 
hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of 
accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no 
intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life 
beyond the grave; that all the labor of the ages, all the devo- 
tion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human 


genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar 
system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must 
inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins 
all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly 
certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to 
stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the 
firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation 
henceforth be safely built. 1 

This passage is interesting, in spite of its lumbering rheto- 
ric, in that it is the expression of a man who knows a great 
deal about modern science. But running through all 
modern literature we find emotive reverberations of views 
of 'reality' springing from the picture of the physical 
world. The statement that "The physical world is the 
real world " is taken as the equivalent of "The aspects of 
experience dealt with by the physical sciences are the 
most important, the most significant, the most revealing 
of the nature of things/' by which last is meant more or 
less "That by which one is emotively most stirred." 
Widely different attitudes of course result: Russell is 
defiant; poets are frequently in despair; the average man, 
if he thinks about it, is generally somewhat bewildered. 

On the other hand, there is a group that denies the 
reality of the physical world. Quite apart from what 
descriptive meaning this denial might have (which we 
shall consider shortly), its emotive meaning is equivalent 
to a rejection of the values associated with the attitude 
which has just been outlined. The physical world is not 
important; we must seek 'reality' not through science, 
but through 'intuition/ art, or religion: in what these 
reveal to us lie the possibilities of adjusting ourselves to 
experience, and discovering the good life. 

Linked with the emotive meanings of 'real' are what 
may be called 'pragmatic meanings.' From this point 

1 Mysticism and Logic , pp. 47-48. 


of view, to call the physical world the real world is a 
statement of active policy, an attempt to give direction 
to practical efforts. It is equivalent to some such under- 
lying ideas as the following: modern science is the greatest 
achievement of man. Through it he has progressed more 
during three hundred years than in all the preceding 
millennia. Let us therefore focus our activities on widen- 
ing the scope and application of science. And let us leave 
behind religion, metaphysics, nonscientific 'ethics,' which 
are incompatible with the spirit of science, and which 
are all vain imaginings, superstition, and outworn folly. 

Writers often are not fully conscious of the emotive and 
pragmatic aspects of the problem of the real. Yet without 
recognizing these clearly we are unable to understand 
what they are saying when they discuss reality. Affirma- 
tions of reality are never wholly the kinds of proposition 
they seem to be, nor can they be argued about with any 
possibility of adequate verification. They are largely 
expressions of attitudes, metaphysical analogues of artisic 
or moral preference. 1 

(2) Dogmatic (reductive) materialism. On p. 214 we 
considered briefly mechanism as a theory of physical 
causation. As such it is to be judged, of course, as would 
be any other scientific hypothesis. But mechanism, re- 
moved from its proper realm of discourse, forms the basis 
of a metaphysical ideology which may be called 'dog- 
matic materialism/ Materialism states not merely that 
the basic physical cause of phenomena is the atoms in 
motion, but generally that the atoms in motion are the 
real, that "Reality is the atoms in motion." 

Materialism is a very ancient doctrine, and it has been 
stated in various forms from early times in Western 

i Cf. Chapter II, pp. 58-60, Chapter III, pp. 95-97, Chapter VI, pp. 185 
and 196, Chapter VIII, pp. 254 and 297, and particularly Chapter XI, for 
analyses of this 'metaphysical ambiguity' in different contexts. 


thought. In fragments of the Greek philosopher Democ- 
ritus we find it quite explicit: 

There are two kinds of knowledge: real knowledge and 
obscure knowledge. To obscure knowledge belong all things of 
sight, sound, odor, taste, and touch; real knowledge is distinct 
from this. . . . We perceive nothing true in what concerns the 
thing itself, unless it is that which is modified from the point of 
view of the position of the body and the things which fall upon 
or resist us. , . . Sweet and bitter, heat and cold, and color 
are only opinions; there is nothing true but atoms and the void. 

The prestige of Aristotelian philosophy and science, how- 
ever, kept materialism underground during the Christian 
Era until after the Renaissance, when the authority of 
Aristotle gave way before the newer physical theories. 
In the seventeenth century materialism was revived, 
outstandingly by the philosopher Thomas Hobbes. As 
typical of his doctrine we may quote from the first chapter 
of Leviathan: 

All which qualities [^colour, sound, odour, savour, heat, feel- 
ing, etc.] called sensible, are in the object that causeth them, but 
so many several motions of the matter, by which it presseth our 
organs diversely. Neither in us that are pressed, are they any 
thing else, but divers motions; (for motion, produceth nothing 
but motion). 

Materialism became more influential during the latter 
part of the eighteenth century, and particularly during the 
nineteenth century, when the physical sciences were in 
the midst of their most spectacular progress. 

When stated in its extreme form, namely that every- 
thing is nothing but the atoms in motion, materialism 
need not be taken very seriously. As soon as we under- 
stand what we are talking about this is seen to be no 
more than a verbal confusion. It is doubtful that mean- 
ings are ever perfectly clear; but we know well enough 


what we mean when we talk about the sweet taste of, say, 
sugar; and we know, perhaps less well but nevertheless 
adequately enough, what we mean by atoms in motion; 
to say that the sweet taste and the moving atoms are 
the same thing y are identical, is manifestly nonsense. Of 
course no one could have maintained such a position 
seriously without being deceived by the words that were 
being used. The position must be re-interpreted either as 
a re-definition of the sweet taste in terms of atomic motion 
rather than of familiar sensation, or in some such manner 
as the following: the moving atoms are the cause of, or the 
invariable accompaniment of, or the sufficient condition 
of, or the necessary condition of, the sweet taste of the 
sugar. This re-interpretation will show that materialism 
is an elliptical and shorthand way of saying something 
much more complicated than the words by which it is 
expressed at first suggest. What these complications are 
we shall in succeeding sections of this chapter make some 
effort to disentangle. 

During the last generation materialism as the name for 
an accredited philosophic doctrine has been generally 
dropped. The disappearance has been due, however, to 
the already noted ambiguity in the concept of * matter/ 
The new physics, we have seen, no longer accepts the 
mechanical atom defined by the 'primary qualities' as 
the fundamental physical unit, [if 'matter' is defined as 
the mechanical atom, then the abandonment of the me- 
chanical atom involves the abandonment of materialism: 
not 'matter/ but electrical charges or energy quanta are 
now held to be the fundamental physical units. However, 
such a definition is arbitrary, and avoids issues underlying 
materialistic doctrines. Matter is a concept much more 
ancient than Newtonian physics, and the mechanical atom 
is only one of many specific contents that have been given 
it. In Section 2 matter was treated not restrictedly as the 


mechanical atom, but more generally as the hypothetical 
substratum enduring throughout the process of physical 
transformation. Viewed in this way, the electronic theory 
or the quantum theory has nothing whatever to do with 
the philosophic doctrine of materialism. Materialism 
which is a type of those metaphysical reductions discussed 
in Chapter VI neither stands nor falls with the atom: 
when quantum transitions are substituted for atoms the 
specific terms of the reduction are varied, but the form of 
the reasoning by which this is done remains the same, and 
equally fallacious. Throughout this book 'materialism' 
refers not to the interpretation of experience in terms of 
atoms in motion, but to the reduction of experience to 
whatever basic units happen to be accepted by the physical 

(3) Fictionalism. In opposition to doctrinaire material- 
ism there have been offered various doctrines denying the 
reality of the physical world. In general they maintain 
that the whole theoretical apparatus of the physical 
sciences, atoms, electrons, quanta, space-time, energy, 
waves, and the rest, are 'unreal/ are mere imaginative 
devices by which the mind meets the chaos of the given. 
Many arguments can be brought forward which seem to 
support such a view, such as: all our 'knowledge* of 
electrons, ether, radiant waves, etc. is and always will be 
indirect they are not amenable to 'direct observation'; 
different theoretic structures (different geometries, dif- 
ferent conceptions of electrons) serve equally well to 
correlate the same events; the world of physics is colorless, 
soundless, touchless, etc., but all we 'know' has color, 
sound, feel; the given is not broken up into points, ob- 
jects, instants, events, but is a continuous flux and change 
we only imagine the breaks for practical convenience, 
and after imagining them discover that change and 
motion can no longer be made intelligible; a genetic 


account of knowledge shows that first we have the given, 
and then we correlate it artificially by common-sense and 
scientific devices; the physical account leaves out the 
most striking and intuitively certain aspects of reality. 

Criticism of this sort is of great use in breaking down 
the dogmatic nonsense of reductive materialism; and 
further, in emphasizing fresh modes of analysis; and 
perhaps most of all in helping to clarify what is meant by 
calling the physical world real. But in advocating the 
opposed extreme, 'fictionalism' also loses itself in verbal 
confusions. The physical sciences are too well established 
to be dangerously shaken when words like 'unreal' and 
'fiction* are flung at them. To say that science is not 
knowledge and that the subject matter of science is not 
real is merely to re-define knowledge and real in a manner 
that excludes the results of some of man's most consider- 
able intellectual efforts. 

(4) The pseudo-dilemma. We seem to be faced with 
the initial premise of a formal dilemma: "The physical 
world either is or is not real" (. . . is either real or un- 
real). If this were indeed the case, if in this proposition 
*reaP and 'not real' were genuine logical contradictories, 
we should be forced to at least the formal decision that 
one or the other of the alternatives must be true. But 
logical contradictories are seldom found outside of a 
purely symbolic logic. In concrete discussions, particu- 
larly when words so slippery as 'real' are being used, 
numerous and elusive ambiguities always enter in. 'Real' 
is a single word y but it is a countless number of symbols. 
It is quite possible to hold that the physical world is both 
real and unreal, because what we mean by that is that it is 
real in one sense > and unreal in some other. More generally, 
whatever is real in one sense is unreal in some other; and 
likewise, whatever is unreal in one sense is real in some 


Further consideration of the words 'real' and 'is' will 
bring this out more clearly. Suppose, for example, that 
someone tells me, "Water is really nothing but H^O." 
What am I to understand as the meaning of this proposi- 
tion? When I sit down at dinner I find before me a glass 
filled with what I call 'water/ It is a liquid, almost 
colorless and almost tasteless; it can be taken into my 
body with great ease through my mouth, and has the 
property, when taken, of quenching that is, putting 
an end to a vivid experience I know of as ' thirst.' 
Does this proposition assert that I am drinking not this 
liquid which has just been described but two gases com- 
bined in a certain proportion, both of which are made up 
of an indefinite number of electrons and protons arranged 
spatio-temporally in a complex manner? Obviously not. 
Now one thing that the proposition undoubtedly does 
mean is something of this sort: //certain operations were 
performed to the liquid before me, if for instance salt were 
mixed with it and negative and positive electric terminals 
were immersed in it, then two gases would be given off, 
one at each terminal, identifiable as hydrogen and oxygen; 
the amounts of them would be in a definite proportion, 
and the more of them that was given off, the less of the 
original water would be left; further operations could 
be carried on with these gases, they could be weighed, 
experiment combined with indirect reasoning could indi- 
cate their electronic structure, they could be compared 
with other 'elements/ etc. In short, the proposition is 
the tacit prediction of possible future sequences of ex- 
perience; these sequences in most cases will not be veri- 
fied, but they are potentially at least verifiable. The 
proposition summarizes the results which a chemist's 
analysis might obtain. 

For me, as a diner, the water before me is correctly 
defined as clear, tasteless, potable, thirst-quenching, and 


this complex is the 'real water' what might be called 
'nutritively real water/ For the chemist functioning as 
chemist water is correctly defined as *H 2 O,' and this 
chemical compound is the 'real water* the 'chemically 
(or physically) real water.' An adverbial modifier must 
always be understood before the adjective 'real/ Thus 
there are in a sense two waters; but they are of course 
related. For the chemist, my water is a group of symbols 
whose meaning is H 2 O, and as symbols he calls them 
(the taste, color, thirst-quenching properties) 'unreal'; 
but for me, when I am dining, the chemist's water is 
likewise a group of symbols, in their turn unreal, whose 
meaning is my real water that I drink. We shall return 
later to other possible relations between the two waters. 
It is not surprising that we should be confused about 
just what it means for electrons to be real, or simply 
'to be' ('to be' and 'to be real' are often used synony- 
mously). Our notions of what it is for something to be or 
to be real are built up first from crude common-sense 
experience. Something 'is' which we can see, touch, 
kick, get hit by, taste, etc. We can have no contact of 
this sort with electrons. That does not mean that elec- 
trons are not real; but it does mean that their reality is 
of a different sort from that of the things we see and 
touch. We have already seen that we do not have 'direct 
knowledge' of anything; there are no 'pure sensations'; 
sensations are always exhibited in a pattern of relations; 
our knowledge always goes beyond the immediately given 
to link it with what is not given. We come back to our 
room and find a letter on the desk. We infer at once, if 
we think about it, that someone has written the letter, 
that someone has been in the room and placed it on the 
desk. We get certain complex results in certain experi- 
ments. Our inferences from these, we call 'electrons'; 
in this way we close in the gaps in our knowledge. We 


do not mean (as would be the case with the person who 
left the letter) that given the proper conditions we should 
be able to see electrons, which has nothing to do with their 
'reality/ but rather that if we carry on certain other 
experiments certain other definite results will follow 
(certain 'rays/ for example, will go through iron); and, 
further, that with the help of electrons the whole theo- 
retical structure of the physical sciences will be more 
complete and harmonious. The failure to distinguish 
kinds of reality leads to statements which, if not correctly 
understood, are very foolish. When we are hit by some- 
thing, scientists tell us, we are being 'bombarded by mole- 
cules/ But such a description of the experience of 'being 
hit' is valid only within the highly specialized realm of 
discourse of chemistry (and physics at the present 
time the two overlap), and is inappropriate and irrelevant 
on most occasions. We are hit by bricks and fists. 
Molecules are not something that hit us: they are the 
summing up and coordination of inferences drawn from 
involved experimental researches with delicate balances 
and high power microscopes, and if they are to be under- 
stood for what they are, they must be understood as 

(6) Appearance and reality. The problem of the real is 
often approached by emphasizing a distinction between 
'appearance' and 'reality/ The sweater appears red in 
sunlight, gray in green light, purple in blue light; it feels 
smooth to normal hands, rough to chapped hands; what 
is the 'reaP sweater? The stick half immersed in clear 
water appears bent, but is 'really' straight. The railway 
tracks appear to converge in the distance, but are 'really' 
parallel. The blood flowing from a cut appears to be a 
homogeneous red liquid, but a microscope shows that it is 
'really' an agglomeration of countless minute cells. The 
black coffee appears to change color to light brown when 


cream is poured into it, but the photo-spectroscope dis- 
closes that the 'real' color remains the same. 

We are now in a better position to understand what is 
meant by this division into appearance and reality: 
reality is being used in a special and limited sense, and to 
discard certain elements of each experience as appearance 
is the same as to say that they are unreal in that sense. 
Nowadays the real object or the real aspects of the experi- 
ence in question usually means what is revealed by ad- 
vanced chemical or physical analysis. This may be 
thought of as a particular application of a distinction 
between substance and accidents. In considering the stick 
that appears bent when half immersed, and straight when 
out of the water altogether, we nevertheless seem forced 
to think of it as the same self-identical stick throughout. 
This identity can be expressed as the stick's 'substance/ 
which is its 'principle of identity,' the unifying sameness 
underlying the variable qualities and properties. These 
qualities and properties, the color, shape, hardness, etc., 
which do not remain uniform, can be known as the * acci- 

Generalized, substance and accident are logico-meta- 
physical notions, independent of specific content. Sub- 
stance is not any specific thing, which can be singled out 
and pointed to, but the principle of identity revealed by 
the logical analysis of any thing. Now the physical 
sciences brought about a corrupting re-interpretation of 
this analysis: corrupting in the sense that without a clear 
recognition of the process, the realm of discourse was 
shifted. 'Substance' gradually became equivalent to 
'matter' and 'matter' to the particular units (atoms, 
electrons) that science accepted as basic. 'Accidents' 
became equivalent to 'ideas' or 'impressions' or 'sensa- 
tions' 'in the mind.' The 'real' object becomes the group 
of electrons, physical waves, etc.; and the variable ap- 


pearances are the mental ideas or images these cause in us 
by acting on our sense organs. Thus, it is argued, can 
be explained the seemingly great disparity between ap- 
pearance and reality. 

(6) Functional identity. The notion of substance has 
during the past two centuries undergone much destructive 
criticism, a large part of which is not thoroughly justified. 
It is one of many natural human efforts to make change 
intelligible, to explain an identity persisting through the 
change with which we seem to be faced. But 'substantial 
identity' is attacked on the grounds that even if there 
were an enduring substance, we could not know it. This 
point was ably developed by Bishop George Berkeley, 
in the early eighteenth century, who insisted we know 
only what were called above the appearances. This con- 
clusion, however, rests on an ambiguity in 'know' (as 
well as on the shift from substance to physical units). 
If by 'know,' we mean 'have a sensation of in the sense 
that we 'know' a color or a sound, it is certainly true that 
we could never know substance any more than we 
could know electrons, light waves, or mathematical rela- 
tions. But knowledge in a more extended sense, though 
it is conditioned throughout by sense data, is by no means 
confined to the bare recording of sensation. We know 
in a variety of ways, in the way we know objects, in the 
way we know the missing premises of a logical argument, 
in the way we infer the causal agent of some event, in the 
way we predict eclipses, etc. And no one maintains that 
substance is something we know as we know, for instance, 
objects. Substance is a notion derived from the logical 
analysis of objects. 

Nevertheless, the attack on substantial identity helps 
to avoid a danger: holding to a notion of substance, we 
tend to interpret everything we know, in any way, as 
'appearance,' as only a symbol referring to something 


else that we do not know, which is the reality. There is 
no objection to this, if it is understood properly; it is 
another way of saying that our knowledge always goes 
beyond the immediately given, that the meaning of any 
conscious situation is always linked with other situations, 
and that our knowledge is never complete. But if this is 
misunderstood as implying that the 'reality' is not only 
not wholly known, but unknowable^ it is simply a form 
of words. To talk about a reality that lies outside of 
experience altogether, outside even the possibilities of 
experience, is to talk nonsense. 

To avoid confusion, therefore, it might be well to borrow 
from mathematics, and substitute for substantial identity 
the notion of functional identity/ Consider a mathe- 
matical function (a polynomial in x) : 

<f> (x) = 2AT 2 3* + I. 

Suppose that someone should ask me, "What is the exact 
value of this function ?" What could I answer? Obviously 
there is no answer when the question is put in this way. 
The function will have any numerical value, depending 
upon what value is substituted for x: o when x is i 
or |; i when x is o or f ; 2 when x is f i^i7, etc. 
But is it necessary from this 'relativity* of the value 
of the function to conclude that it has no 'identity'? 
Certainly not. Its identity consists in just the fact that its 
values are related to values of x in a particular and unique 
way, rather than in any other. If we compare it with the 

$ (x) = x 2 - 5* + 4, 

we shall find that this new function will also have any 
numerical value, but for different values of x: o when x 
is 4 or i ; i when x is f fVij; 2 when x is f f^i?, 
etc. The identity of each of these functions is to be found 
not in their possession of one unalterable value, but in 


the fact that each represents a unique total set of relations 
among all the possible values. 

Functional identity will clarify the appearance and 
reality difficulty. In the case of the sweater: to ensure 
sufficient intelligibility in experience, it is not necessary 
to think of one unalterable (and for that very reason 
unknowable) 'real' color somehow substantially enduring. 
The 'real' color is the whole pattern of relations among 
the various actual and possible experiences. We call the 
sweater red, but that is for convenience, because ordi- 
narily, in sunlight, to normal eyes, it 'looks red'; but 
part of what we mean by calling it red is that it will look 
gray in green light, etc. In the same way, part of what 
we mean when we call a stick straight is that it will 
look crooked when half t immersed in water. The ' ap- 
pearance' is real enough from its own point of view; it 
is indeed an undeniable fact; but we do not know the 
'real' stick until we know how the appearance is related 
to other possible appearances among which the physico- 
chemical analysis of the stick is to be included. 

Both the black coffee and the brown coffee look the 
same through a photo-spectroscope: we see, as a matter 
of fact, in both cases a complete 'spectrum/ all the colors 
of the rainbow. Do we conclude from this that the 'real' 
color of the coffee remains the same? We do not; we 
try to make clear what we are thinking about. Now as a 
matter of fact, none of the colors is real from the stand- 
point of physical science. They all are symbols referring 
to a complex theoretical structure which alone is physically 
real. That structure is not anything that I am ever going 
to see, since it has no color, and I can see only what has 
color. In the coffee which I am about to drink the change 
in color is real enough; and by observing it I know when 
the coffee is in a proper state to be drunk. This common- 
sense object, the coffee I am about to drink, is easily 


identifiable (as are most common-sense objects) by 
color, smell, etc. but its behavior is somewhat erratic: 
I cannot tell easily whether it is good coffee, how hot it is, 
how it is related to other things. The objects into which 
physics and chemistry analyze it (molecules, 'light waves/ 
etc.) are extremely difficult to identify, but are, in com- 
pensation, much more orderly in their behavior, and more 
coherently related to many other things. But both the 
common-sense object and the physical object have their 
own appropriate reality, one of which I know by being 
a coffee drinker, and the other by being a scientist. 

(7) The real as definitive. Much of the positive criti- 
cism contained in the preceding sections is a corollary 
of the definition of 'real' given in Chapter VI. This 
may be re-stated as follows: Within any given realm of 
discourse, the 'real* is the basic category which defines the 
limits of that realm of discourse. 

It must not be thought that the limits are defined in the 
way that words are defined in a dictionary. A dictionary 
definition is an arbitrary and merely verbal matter, serv- 
ing occasional practical convenience. We learn definitions 
by using them. We understand what 'man' means not 
by hearing such words as * vertebrate, mammal, two- 
legged, etc./ but by knowing men, and the more we know 
about men, the richer and more inclusive will be our defi- 
nition. A definition is not something we can formulate 
adequately at the outset of a study, but only at the end; 
or rather, since no study ends, tentatively as we go along, 
and changing when a change is called for. 

In this way is built up our conception of the physically 
real. When science began it was not sufficiently coherent 
to display a definite category of the real. But as it 
develops, as it becomes a more and more extensive and 
harmonious structure, that very development teaches 
what is meant by the physically real. For an event to 


be physically real it must take its place in an ordered 
spatio-temporal system, it must be coherently related to 
other physical events, it must be susceptible to mathe- 
matical analysis, it must be capable of being subsumed 
under general laws, etc. Thus we can say that dreams, 
hallucinations, the 'space' we see in a mirror image, God, 
luck, value are physically unreal: they do not conform 
to the definitive requirements of physical reality. This 
does not prevent them from being extremely vivid and 
among the most important and influential of our experi- 
ences; it merely states that the type of analysis made 
use of by the physical sciences is inappropriate to them; 
that either they are ruled out of physical science altogether, 
or physical science will consider only those aspects of them 
which can be made to conform to its requirements 
science might make use of them, but only as symbols 
pointing to physical reality. 

But from some other point of view these unreal (physi- 
cally unreal) events will be real: the dream or the halluci- 
nation is a real event for the psychoanalyst, God for the 
mystic. Indeed, a psychologist of certain schools might 
rule out all physical reality as psychologically unreal, and 
interpret it in terms of 'mental events' or 'ideas' which 
for him, as psychologist, would be the genuinely real. 

Each realm of discourse thus postulates the reality of its 
constituent meanings, and in fact could hardly do other- 
wise. Of course the boundaries are never exact, and are 
always changing; even mathematics and physics, the 
most coherent and elaborate realms of discourse, are not 
yet, nor will they be, clearly defined. And the various 
realms of discourse are related to each other: but that 
relation is not one of reduction. To 'reduce* one type of 
meaning to another is not to explain it, but to eliminate 
it. Often this is useful, and even advisable; but what is 
done should be recognized. 


Materialism not only dogmatic but as well the modi- 
fied forms of materialism is guilty of just such a reduc- 
tion, without the recognition that it is a reduction. At 
present 'real' is often used as if synonymous with 'physi- 
cally real/ For this there is some justification. The 
realm of the physical is so extensive, so influential a part 
of our lives; and, moreover, our knowledge of it is fitted 
into so ordered and harmonious a system; that, for con- 
venience, we may if we wish say that real means simply 
physically real. But we run a great danger in doing so. 
We get mixed up with the emotive, directive, and evalu- 
ative meanings of 'real' by forgetting that the adverb 
'physically* is always to be understood before the 'real/ 
And we tend to restrict our analyses to the one type 
exemplified by the physical sciences, and thereby to neg- 
lect other kinds of analyses revealing aspects of experi- 
ence quite as legitimate as the physical and often more 
appropriate and more valuable. By 'explaining' what 
happens in physical terms we gain the immense advan- 
tages of order, lawfulness, and the type of control that 
enables us to build bridges, automobiles, radios. But 
physical terms explain non-physical aspects of experience 
only by explaining them away. That is why it is so foolish 
to suppose that science will ever 'prove' or 'disprove' 
God, free will, beauty, luck, consciousness. We know in 
advance that these things have no place in physical science; 
science can bring them within its field only by eliminating 
their non-scientific features. 

To suppose the existence of free phenomena entirely detached 
from the domination of law and from our prevision in no way 
assails the principle of science. Nor is it contrary to its con- 
clusions, for determinism being a fundamental postulate of 
science and science limiting in advance its activity to what is 
capable of being foreseen, it is certain that, whatever results 
may come of it, they can teach us nothing about what, by pre- 


vious agreement, has been omitted from the domain of our 
investigations. 1 

Again, we rule out the freshness and surprise, which is an 
inescapable element of experience. And, still more strik- 
ing, we do not consider the individual particular as such, 
for science deals only with particulars as members of a 
class, as instances of a generality, in the measure that 
particulars can be brought under laws. But this obscures 
their character as this unique particular rather than some 
other, with which science has no concern, yet which may 
be all-important from some other point of view for, 
for instance, a poet or an artist. Likewise an ethical or 
religious discussion, when reduced to physical terms, is no 
longer genuinely about ethics or religion. This does not 
mean that science may not throw light on ethics and 
religion; nor does it necessarily mean that a non-physical 
analysis will conflict with physical analysis. The point 
is only that other kinds of analysis are possible, if we 
wish to make them. 

1 Emile Meyerson, Identity and Reality, p. 26. 



In biology, as in physics, many of the basic terms 
are much less clear than at first sight they seem to be. 
'Life/ 'evolution/ 'adaptation/ 'teleology/ 'mecha- 
nism/ 'vitalism/ 'organism/ 'heredity/ 'natural selec- 
tion' have such various meanings that the probability of 
a clear discussion about genuine issues is small. This 
is clearly true when the discussion is among laymen; 
but it is true also in the writings of scientists and phi- 
losophers : 

The conflict of opinions in biology has become marked by 
the watchwords, vitalism and mechanism. As is true in all 
such instances, a great danger arises, that a complex of many 
things of most diverse character, is often named according to 
one of many properties by which it may be determined. In fact 
we see that a well-known investigator calls himself a mechanist 
while the mechanists think of him as a vitalist. 1 

The reasons for these ambiguities include those that 
make obscure any complex matter. But in treating the 
problems connected with life there are certain factors of 
particular importance. 

(i) The first of these is the emotive meanings attached 
to the notion of 'life/ We have seen the troubles these 
brought about when dealing with physical reality. But 
in dealing with life they are even more insistent. Life 
is one of the most intimate of all aspects of reality, 
bound up with all that we take to be of greatest value. 

1 Wilhelm Ostwald, The Relations of Biology and the Neighboring Sciences. 



/ am alive, and few things that I can say seem to be more 
important than this. And one day I shall be dead> not 
alive. Toward the meaning of life and of death, questions 
about the nature of life, we cannot be dispassionate and 
impersonal. Nor is there any reason to suppose that we 
ought to be. No one would argue, whatever were his 
scientific conclusions, that we ought to have the same 
attitude toward what is living and what is not living, or 
toward plants and toward men. But in the interests of 
intellectual clarity we should make an effort to separate 
the emotions and the attitudes from the scientific and the 
critical discussion. 

(ii) Again, there is the fact that problems of life are 
bound up with the dogmas of authoritarian religions. 
Various questions of the immortality of individual or col- 
lective life and of the first creation of life are answered 
in many religions through revelation, authority, and tradi- 
tion. Here, again, there is no reason why we should not, 
if we choose, accept answers given on these grounds; but 
we must try to separate these grounds from scientific and 
philosophic reasoning. In some cases there is a real con- 
flict between the answers given by science and by religion, 
but often the answers are not to the same questions, 
properly understood. 

(iii) But there is a third source of confusion. Biology, 
which is the realm of discourse supposed to give us the 
facts about life, is comparatively recent as a science in 
the sense that science is now generally understood. The 
study of life has gone on since the beginning of thought, 
but until the nineteenth century it was in large part 
description and classification. There are an incalculable 
number of different forms of organisms; and the immense 
work (which is not yet nearly complete) of observing, 
collecting, and arranging in some sort of order these forms 
so that reference would be facilitated had to be carried a 


good distance before a more conscious science could begin. 
The above mentioned emotive and religious factors also 
hindered the beginnings of a genuine biological science. 
As a consequence the realm of discourse of biology is by 
no means so clearly defined as those of logic, mathematics, 
astronomy, physics, or chemistry. Its limits are more 
vague and its fundamental terms in doubt. As a result, 
a critical or philosophic discussion arising from biology 
cannot be as precise as we might wish. 

There are many philosophic problems suggested by re- 
flection on living things and life, of which we shall be 
able to analyze only a few. What seems to be one, and one 
of the most important, stands out at once. I know a great 
many living things, differing greatly among themselves, 
but all seeming to have something in common; and in this 
they seem to be distinguished from the many other things 
that are not living. What is this difference, which we 
know as 'life/ that the one set has and the other does not 
have? Is it a 'genuine* difference, or only an Appear- 
ance ' ? 

To common sense, this problem seems to be unambigu- 
ous; but on analysis it is less clear. The reason for this 
is that it is in fact many problems. People sometimes 
suppose that they make the problem clearer by asking: 
"Are living organisms 'fundamentally' or 'radically* or 
'essentially' or 'really' different from non-living things?" 
But of the speciousness of such emotively satisfying ad- 
verbs we are already sufficiently aware. What shall we 
regard as a 'fundamental' or an 'essential' difference? 

In part at least the problem is one of classification. 
This much is unquestionable: From some points of view 
(remaining for the present within the realm of common 
sense) organisms are not different from material objects 
that is, we may legitimately classify them together. 


For instance, both, as we know them in common sense, 
have a place in the spatio-temporal order; both have 
mass, and behave, at least for the most part, in accordance 
with gravitation (though birds fly) ; both offer resistance 
to touch; etc. But from other (common-sense) points of 
view, organisms are undoubtedly different from material 
objects cannot be classified with them. For instance, 
they move around 'by themselves/ grow, die, have off- 
spring, eat. However we are later to interpret organisms, 
these are facts we have to start with. The issue, there- 
fore, evidently does not lie at this level of discourse; or if 
it does it is purely verbal, since we can give either answer 
depending on what facts we emphasize. 
Let us see, then, how a biologist states the problem: 

So the first question is whether . . . there are irreducible 
peculiarities in vital activities peculiarities which cannot be 
adequately accounted for in terms of physico-chemical or ideally 
mechanical description? Or is the usually admitted incom- 
pleteness of the physico-chemical description of, let us say, a 
reflex action merely temporary, and likely soon to disappear? 

The second question is a little different. Of the movements 
of the heavenly bodies Gravitational Astronomy gives mechani- 
cal descriptions which are practically exhaustive and almost 
perfectly useful. Now supposing there were available a com- 
plete mechanical account of, say, the opening of a Yucca flower, 
would that be all that is wanted in Biology? Would light have 
been thrown, for instance, on the fact that only one Yucca flower 
opens on each plant each evening, that the flowers begin to 
open when the Yucca moths begin to emerge from their cocoons, 
that the life of the flower and the life of the moth are closely 
bound up together, so that the one without the other is not made 
perfect? The Yucca flower and the Yucca moth are organisms 
with a history; they have come to work into one another's 
hands. Are their adaptive relations only different in degree 
from the dynamical relations between Earth and Moon, or 
must we admit that the answers to distinctively biological 


questions do not follow from even a complete ledger (were that 
available) of the chemical and physical transactions? 1 

Thompson tries to make the issue more precise by 
centering it around the relations between the physico- 
chemical sciences and biology, and thus removing it to 
realms of discourse more exact than common sense. His 
first question might be summed up as asking, "Are physi- 
cal explanations of vital phenomena exhaustively possi- 
ble?" and the second as asking, "Whether or not possible, 
are physical explanations wholly relevant to the kind of 
questions which the biologist, properly speaking, must 
ask? " The second question is critical or dialectical, in the 
sense defined in Chapter VI; the first might seem to be 
speculative, in the sense that either an affirmative or a 
negative answer, on the basis of the evidence we have at 
present, would have no more than a slight probability; 
but it will be seen that both speculative and critical aspects 
are included. To both these questions an extreme mecha- 
nist would answer Yes, and an extreme vitalist. No. It is, 
however, quite possible to discriminate between the two 
questions, and answer, for instance, Yes or Perhaps to the 
first, and No to the second. 

The problem as thus conceived deals with the autonomy 
of biology as a science; and to begin with we shall accept 
this formulation, though we shall see that it too is actually 
several problems. But the problem might be stated in a 
radically different manner. It might be seen to involve 
the question, "What is a science ?" And it might be 
argued by another kind of vitalist that if our conception 
of science is drawn from mathematics and the physical 
sciences, then biology is and should be only partially a 
science; or //"biology is irt this sense a science, then biology 
is not fitted to deal with all the problems of living things 

1 J. Arthur Thompson, The System of Animate Nature, Vol. I, p. 109. 


and life as we know them. We shall however postpone 
discussion of this argument. 

We shall also for the time being restrict ourselves to the 
individual organism, and leave for the last section the 
relationships among the various kinds of organisms (phy- 
togeny). But before going on we must introduce certain 
terms which, though rough, will serve to fix certain 
characteristics of living things more adequately than is 
done by common sense. In the first place all except the 
lowest organisms (the Protista) are built up out of one 
or more cells. These cells, consisting of nucleus and sur- 
rounding protoplasm, are of many different kinds, sizes, 
chemical content, etc. The development of an individual 
organism (the individual morphogenesis) always starts 
from a single cell, the 'egg' (the organism may consist only 
of one cell). From this cell, under proper conditions, 
which usually include fertilization by another cell called 
a spermatozoon, the organism develops by a process of 
cleavage (one cell splitting into two) and differentiation 
(one group of cells becoming the type to make up one 
'organ/ another group another organ stomach, nerves, 
skin, bones, whatever it may be). Now it is difficult 
to state general characteristics of organisms without 
tacitly answering our problems by the very words that are 
used, since vitalists and mechanists are likely to use 
quite different words. Let us therefore accept them 
tentatively. E. S. Russell, a vitalist, calls the "deeper 
manifestations of life" " development, differentiation of 
structure and function, and functional adaptation." 1 
C. Lloyd Morgan, who is a vitalist of a special sort, gives 
as characteristic biological events: "cell-division and 
cell-differentiation, chromosome-partition and distribu- 
tion, the reappearance in offspring of characters like those 
in the parent or parents" (op. cit.). Wilhelm Ostwald, 

1 Quoted by C. Lloyd Morgan, " Biology" in Evolution. 


who might have been called a critical mechanist (he was 
not, for that matter, a biologist), says: "Biology is that 
science which treats of those chemical objects which have 
a stationary condition of energy, that is, of nourishment 
and reproduction" (op. cit.}. The notion of a 'stationary 
condition of energy' is of great importance. What it 
means is this: In burning, for instance, a candle uses 
up 'energy.' It will burn so long as it has wax and there 
is surrounding oxygen. In living, presumably, organisms 
use up energy. But every organism now in the world is 
quite different from a candle in that it is part of an energy 
transformation system which has been burning (literally 
burning in the chemical sense, that is, 'oxidizing') as far 
back as the limits of observation and inference extend 
there is an unbroken continuity of living cells. The 
ability to maintain such a stationary condition of energy 
is a striking and quite precise categorial distinction and 
means of classification. Jacques Loeb, who was an 
extreme mechanist, defined the difference as follows: 

Living organisms have the peculiarity of developing and re- 
producing themselves automatically, and it is this automatic 
character of reproduction and development which differentiates 
them for the time being from machines made of inanimate 
matter. 1 

In any discussion of problems of life as they are related 
to the sciences, it is necessary to keep in mind at least a 
few of these elementary notions to prevent the analysis 
from becoming an abstract verbal exercise. Indeed, with- 
out a fairly thorough knowledge of biology an analysis 
inevitably must remain somewhat superficial. 

1 The Chemical Character of the Process of Fertilization and its Bearing upon 
the Theory of Life Phenomena. 



The opposition between mechanism and vitalism con- 
ceived as a question of the relation between biology as 
a science and the physical sciences may be separated into 
three related problems: (i) " Should biology accept the 
postulate of determinism?" (2) "What are the funda- 
mental terms in biology?" (3) "Can biology be reduced 
to the physical sciences?" 

(1) The postulate of determinism. We have had in 
the last three chapters more than one occasion to refer 
to the postulate of determinism. By some writers the 
opposition between mechanism and vitalism is inter- 
preted as the acceptance or rejection of this postulate for 
biology. It is easy to understand the vitalises attitude 
on this point. Complicated organisms do seem at least 
in some of their activities to be 'free'; that is, some of 
their behavior seems to be unpredictable or undetermined. 
If I hold a brick in my hand and relax my muscles the 
brick will undoubtedly fall; if I punch someone on the jaw 
he may run away or he may punch back I can't be 
sure beforehand. If I turn a switch that sends an electric 
current through a resistance coil, the coil will get hot; 
if I walk through a field in which there is a wild bull, the 
bull may or may not attack me. 

Now there is no doubt that many of the actions of 
organisms are not completely determined in accordance 
with laws that we know of at present. But the state of 
our knowledge is not what the postulate of determinism is 
talking about. Moreover, the question is not whether the 
organism 'really is' in all respects determined. It is, 
first of all, a question of method: the assumption that in 
any given instance the event that is being studied is 
probably connected with some other event in some uniform 
manner. There is no reason why biology must accept this 


postulate, nor even why science in general must accept 
it. But it is generally held that all sciences, so far as they 
are genuinely sciences, should accept it. Anyone may 
object to this; but it serves a great advantage in defining 
more clearly both the possibilities and limitations of science. 
Responsible biologists, both vitalists and mechanists, 
do accept the postulate: 

In any branch of knowledge which practical necessities have 
separated from others, and which science now tries to study 
methodically, there occur general sequences in phenomena, 
general orders of events. This uniformity is revealed only 
gradually, but as soon as it has shown itself, even in the least 
degree, the investigator seizes upon it. He now devotes himself 
chiefly, or even exclusively, to the generalities in the sequences 
of all changes. He is convinced that there must be a sort of most 
general and at the same time of most universal connection about 
all occurrences. This most universal connection has to be 
found out; at least it will be the ideal that will accompany 
the inquiring mind during its researches. The 'law of nature' 
is the ideal I am speaking about, an ideal which is nothing 
less than one of the postulates of the possibility of science 
at all. 1 

The problem of a scientific investigator can always be re- 
duced to two tasks; the first, to determine the independent 
variables of the phenomena which he has under investigation, 
and secondly, to find the formula which allows him to calculate 
the value of the function for every value of the variable. 2 

We may say therefore that if this general meaning 
of ' science ' is accepted, the issue between mechanism 
and vitalism is settled in this sense: biology, to the extent 
to which it is a science , will postulate probable determinism; 
and, theoretically, it will deal only with those aspects of 

1 H. A. E. Driesch, The Science and Philosophy of the Organism, p. 8. 
1 Jacques Loeb, The Recent Development of Biology. 


organisms which can be brought under general laws. 
However, it might still be asked, even granted the postu- 
late methodologically, is it genuinely descriptive of 'the 
nature of things' in this case, of organisms? It will 
certainly be descriptive of what science studies, for any 
other possibility is ruled out. 

(i) This question has already been answered in general. 
The postulate is genuinely descriptive at least to the 
extent that experience does in fact lend itself, within 
limits, to the kind of interpretation it demands. But on 
any plausible account such interpretation must neglect 
elements of experience whose reality, from another point 
of view, cannot be denied. 

(ii) A criticism from within science itself is suggested 
by the last chapter. Physical laws do not hold exactly, 
even when applied to inanimate objects. This is often 
explained as due to the 'human equation* in experimental 
observation, and overcome by the setting of 'limits of 
error/ But the explanation, it is evident, begs the ques- 
tion, and fails to recognize the large structural element 
in all scientific propositions. This criticism, which holds 
when inanimate objects are in question, is at least equally 
valid and probably more so when the physical realm is 
extended to include the organic. 

(iii) The postulate of determinism applies only to any 
given instance. The postulate of a universal determinism, 
in which everything is lawfully related to everything else, 
is not necessary to science, and is contrary to the nature 
of scientific method. Suppose, for example, that a scien- 
tist is taking up a specific problem connected with chemi- 
cal events occurring in 'respiration.' If anyone should 
argue that the oxygenation of the blood is not connected 
with anything according to some general law, this would 
be a speculative judgment, and might be disproved by 
subsequent investigation (it has been at least partially 


disproved). In like manner any other specific indetermin- 
istic answer might be partially disproved. But the study 
of oxygenation is possible only if the scientist definitely 
limits his investigation, disregarding what consciously or 
unconsciously he treats as 'irrelevancies.' There is an 
endless number of things that oxygenation logically might 
be connected with including the experimenter's health, 
emotions, the weather, the influence of the spiral nebulas, 
the velocity of light, and anything else but fruitful 
investigation is possible only if it is assumed that there 
are only a few things among which the actual connection 
is to be sought. Scientific laws always assume a qualifica- 
tive 'Other things being equal'; they abstract and isolate 
a problem to make it precise. Thus, though any specific 
application of indeterminism may be disproved by subse- 
quent investigation, indeterminism in general can never 
be disproved. And this is not simply because of the inevi- 
table limitations of our scientific knowledge, but because 
determinism in general would not mean anything more 
than a vague emotion : 

In supposing the absolute determination of everything . . . 
the world appears to us a solid block rigorously determined in 
every detail, by every particular detail. This is the point of 
view which the encyclopaedists loved to develop. "The uni- 
verse for one who could encompass it from a single point of view 
would only be, if it is permitted to say so, a unique fact and a 
great truth/* wrote d'Alembert. "The absolute independence 
of a single fact,*' said Diderot, "is incompatible with the idea of 
the whole." In the universe thus conceived it becomes in- 
different whether we wish to determine the future by the present 
or, on the contrary, the present by the future. But we are 
absolutely in ignorance whether in reality the universe does 
constitute such a block. If it exists, our mind does not permit 
us to know it; in order to perceive we are obliged contrariwise 
to break it up into isolated phenomena, and in order to act 
we are also forced to believe that it does not exist, that the 


course of the world is not determined in advance, and that we 
are free to influence it. 1 

(2) The fundamental terms in biology. Granted, for 
the moment, the postulate of determinism interpreted 
in this manner, a second question arises: To what kind 
of terms does this determinism apply ? The answer to this 
question is the first task of a scientific investigator as 
stated above by Loeb: "to determine the independent 
variables of the phenomena which he has under investiga- 
tion." From this point of view, the opposition between 
mechanism and vitalism may be re-interpreted. The 
mechanist argues that the terms are ultimately physico- 

We may, therefore, say that it is now proved beyond all doubt 
that the variables in the chemical processes in living organisms 
are identical with those with which the chemist has to deal in 
the laboratory. 2 

The chemical terms would ultimately be interpreted, in 
theory, as complexes of electrons and protons, or some 
other basic physical units. The vitalist argues, on the 
other hand, that the behavior of living things can be 
explained only with the help of terms differing essentially 
from those used by physics and chemistry. Specifically, 
he asserts the existence of a 'life force/ or 'entelechy' 
manifested only in living things and distinguishing them 
from things that are not living. 

No kind of causality based upon the constellations of single 
physical and chemical acts can account for organic individual 
development; this development is not to be explained by any 
hypothesis about configuration of physical and chemical agents. 
Therefore, there must be some thing else which is to be regarded 
as the sufficient reason of individual form-production. We now 
have got the answer to our question, what our constant E [the 
1 6mile Meyerson, op. cit., p. 315. * Loeb, op. cit. 


entelechy or life force] consists in. It is not the resulting action 
of a constellation. It is not only a short expression for a more 
complicated state of affairs, it expresses a true element of nature. 
Life, at least morphogenesis, is not a specialized arrangement of 
inorganic events; biology, therefore, is not applied physics and 
chemistry: life is something apart, and biology is an inde- 
pendent science. 1 

It might seem that this problem is quite distinct from 
the first; but as a matter of fact this is not the case, 
as we may see by examining what is involved by the 
deterministic postulate, and what is meant by 'force.' 

What will the scientist take for the variables in his 
equations (the terms in his laws)? With what units 
will he deal? Now the organism as a whole will not be 
his variable or unit. The reason for this is obvious: 
the organism as a whole is not determined, that is, cannot, 
if taken as a unit, be subsumed under any general laws. 
Certain vague correlations which are sometimes called 
'laws' can be made about the behavior of the organism 
as a whole: all living things oxidize, all except one-celled 
organisms 'die,' all 'adapt' themselves in some sense to 
their environment. But these correlations are not at all 
exact. They do not tell when and under what circum- 
stances an organism dies, how, exactly, it will adapt itself, 
just how the oxidation takes place. Nor will it do much 
good to restrict the laws to a particular 'species.' We 
can say, for instance, not only that all men oxidize and 
die, but that they all feel sexual desire, all want material 
comforts, all are burned by hot bodies, etc. But these 
'laws' too are extremely vague and inexact. 

To get exact laws, therefore, one of two things must be 
done: We may take as our unit some wider term which 
is a whole of which the individual organisms are parts. 
This is the method of statistical generalization. Approxi- 

1 Driesch, op. */., p. 105. 


mately correct laws can be stated about the generalized 
abstraction 'man living in the United States' when 
'he' will die, marry, be ill, commit suicide, murder, 
etc. and the vagaries of individual 'men' may be 
disregarded. Or we may, on the contrary, analyze the 
individual organism into parts, take these parts as our 
variables, and discover more exact laws holding among 
them. This is the usual method of science, and, if science 
is to approximate exact laws, the inevitable method. 
The organism is analyzed into * organs' kidney, liver, 
heart, brain, intestines. These new units are much more 
determined than the organism as a whole: food goes into 
the stomach, the various processes of digestion go on one 
after the other in a fairly exact sequence, under normal 
conditions. The organs are analyzed into cells; the cells 
into complex molecules, the molecules into atoms, the 
atoms into electron-proton aggregates. (However, accord- 
ing to the principle of indeterminism discussed in the last 
chapter, at this extreme we again meet units not subject 
to 'law,' which we get around by the help of the first, or 
statistical method.) The large scale, more or less hap- 
hazard activities of the whole organism are now seen as an 
orderly sequence of small scale events. The marvelous 
development from the single cell to the complex, differ- 
entiated mature organism, and all its subsequent activities, 
are broken up into innumerable isolated events related 
in a regular manner only to other events in their immedi- 
ate spatio-temporal neighborhood. 

Nevertheless, what happens in the development of an 
organism is on any account almost fantastically complex. 
So, even accepting this method of analysis, may we con- 
clude with the vitalist that to account for what happens 
a vital force must be brought in, which is not operative 
in the case of (apparently simpler, though themselves 
sufficiently complex) inorganic events? Suppose that we 


assume such a force, and try to imagine how the reasoning 
of a scientist would proceed. A mechanist objects to the 
idea of a separate 'vital force* on the grounds that it is a 
' mysterious ' ' unknowable ' something that he can't handle 
in his laboratories. But this objection rests on a 
partial misunderstanding. Any force, from the standpoint 
of observation and experiment, is mysterious and unknow- 
able. "When we deal with matter in the concrete, force 
does not, strictly speaking, enter into the question. . ." 1 

We observe and experiment with events that happen; 
force is an abstraction inferred from what happens. It 
can be interpreted as an explanation of 'why' these events 
have happened; but the scientist does not need to 
consider it more than a summing up of certain metric 
aspects of what has in fact happened. A physical body 
in motion is accelerated; the 'amount' of acceleration 
measures the mechanical force expended, and such a 
measurement is the nearest the scientist can get to the 
'observation' of force. 

A great many different kinds of events seem to be 
happening, and they seem to display different kinds of 
forces and energies, mechanical, electrical, chemical, radi- 
ant, etc. But science seeks for the lawful in what happens. 
It discovers certain lawful correlations in, say, electrical, 
mechanical, and thermic phenomena. But as soon as 
correlations are discovered within each of these three 
classes, it becomes possible as we saw in Chapter VII 
to correlate the three with each other, to subsume the 
three separate 'forces' that are manifested under a wider 
concept of 'energy,' and to formulate the principle of the 
conservation of energy. No 'qualitative' equality be- 
tween forces and energies is needed to have a force fit into 

1 Darcy W. Thompson, On Growth and Form. Thompson is an advocate of 
mathematical methods in biology, though philosophically he is critical toward 


the principle of the conservation of energy. The energy 
of heat is measured with the help of a thermometer using 
as a unit the raising of a certain volume of a certain sub- 
stance a certain number of ' degrees ' (making a liquid rise 
a certain amount in the thermometer). Mechanical force 
is measured by the change in velocity of a body of unit 
mass. The two seem to be very different concepts. But 
as soon as we have reduced each individually to mathe- 
matical order, we can equate them with the help of a 
mathematical 'transformation formula.' It is still per- 
missible to think of heat, mechanical force, and electricity 
from one point of view as different forces; but science, 
restricting itself to their metric properties, treats all 
three as simply forms of the abstracted concept of energy. 

There are events that happen in the development of 
organisms that do not happen elsewhere. These may at 
first be thought of as manifestations of a vital force. 
But as soon as mathematical laws covering them are suf- 
ficiently known, just as heat, mechanical force, and elec- 
tricity are assimilated to each other, so will it be possible 
to subsume (mathematically) vital force under the con- 
cept of energy, and to postulate the conservation of energy 
to apply to vital force. Since, even thus interpreted, the 
particular organization of physico-chemical units found 
in organisms does not occur among inorganic phenomena, 
life may still be thought of as a unique 'function* in the 
sense developed in Chapter VII; but science may, for its 
purposes, treat the difference between vital force and other 
forces and energies as metric only. 

The assimilation of 'unique' organic phenomena to 
general chemistry, and thence, in theory, to physics, has 
already been many times illustrated during the history 
of experimental biology and physiology. For instance, 
certain chemical reactions (e.g. oxidation and certain 
processes in digestion) take place at much lower tempera- 


tures in living things than in the laboratory. The vitalist 
may argue that this is one of the concrete manifestations 
of 'vital force/ But the mechanist 'solves' it by the 
'discovery* of enzymes. Very little is known about 
enzymes; in fact about the only thing that is certainly 
'known' is that their presence will enable a chemical 
reaction to take place at lower temperatures than ordi- 
narily, though the enzymes themselves do not, apparently, 
undergo any change in chemical composition during the 
reaction. This is a property of what are called catalysts, 
and inorganic catalysts are known. The chemist therefore 
considers that he has explained enzymes physically by 
classifying them as one type of catalyst. Enzymes have 
been found only in organisms; but if we start from mech- 
anistic postulates we should not be surprised to end 
up by explaining things mechanistically. 

For a practicing biologist the preceding theoretic dis- 
cussion is somewhat academic. Whatever may be the 
theoretic advantages of regarding the organism as ulti- 
mately a bundle of electrons, the practical advantages 
are absolutely nil, as everyone recognizes. No one has 
anything to do with electrons except a few specialized 
scientists working in intricately equipped physical labora- 
tories. We have to deal in larger, rougher, and perhaps 
from theory vaguer units to get anywhere. When we bet 
on a horse race we might be sure to win if we knew the 
electronic composition of all the starters, and all the ex- 
ternal forces affecting it; but actually we rely on details 
more amenable to observation. An extreme mechanist 
counters these practical necessities by reference to a theo- 
retic future when our knowledge will be complete, or 
nearly so. But this is scarcely justified. The probability 
that we shall ever be able to write down mathematical 
equations covering the makeup of a dog or a man is too 


slight to take seriously. We may think of this as a com- 
ment on the limitations of man, but it may be equally 
well a comment on the universe. 

In perusing a book of popular science or materialistic phi- 
losophy . , ., one gains the impression that the mechanical 
theory is a logical conception, complete and finished, directly 
applicable if not to the totality, at least to the great majority 
of natural phenomena. But looking more closely it is easy to 
see that this is an illusion. That all the phenomena of organic 
matter should be explained by those of inorganic matter has 
always been postulated by a great number of thinkers. . . . 
But in reality these are simple postulates, and every impartial 
observer is obliged to recognize that, if some progress has been 
made in this direction . . . what has been done is extremely 
little compared to what remains to be done. Indeed, one can 
scarcely discover in modern physiological doctrines the faintest 
traces of mechanical explanation. Let us reflect: here are two 
germs between which the most minute microscopic examination 
is incapable of finding the slightest difference; and yet one is the 
germ of a man and the other the germ of a cat. . . . But even 
in inorganic science is there not much that is illogical? 1 

In biological research there are peculiar difficulties, and 
this fact is not without importance in estimating the 
controversy between mechanists and vitalists. 

The experimenter in the inorganic fields of nature is not 
hampered by the specificity of composite objects: he 'makes' 
all the combinations he wants. . . . The biologist is not able 
to 'make' specific forms of life, as the physicist has made red 
rays, or as the chemist has made a certain compound of carbon. 
. . . The biologist is dependent on the specificity of living ob- 
jects as they occur in nature. 

A few instances may show what great inconveniences may 

i Meyerson, op. cif. y pp. 63, 64. The statement that "one can scarcely dis- 
cover in modern physiological doctrines the faintest traces of mechanical 
explanation" was hardly justified when Meyerson wrote it, and is certainly 
not now. But it is still more true than many theoretical mechanists recognize. 


hence arise to impede practical biological research. We later 
on shall have to deal with experiments on very young embryos: 
parts of the germ will have to be destroyed in order to study 
what will happen with the rest. Now, almost all germs are sur- 
rounded by a membrane: this membrane has to be detached 
before any operation is possible. But what are we to do if it 
is not possible to remove the membrane without killing the 
embryo? ... in experiments on physiology proper or func- 
tional physiology: one kind of animals survives the operations; 
the other kind does not, and therefore, for merely extrinsic 
reasons, the investigations have to be restricted to the first, 
though the second might have given important results. 1 

Driesch is here referring to experiments on which some 
relatively exact work has been done. But there are innu- 
merable others in which exactness has not been approached. 
It would be unwise to state too closely limits beyond 
which experimenters cannot go. Experimenters display 
a remarkable ingenuity in surpassing limits through indi- 
rect methods of observation. A piece of the sun cannot 
be put in a test tube for chemical analysis; but analogies 
from the study of the spectrum of sunlight enable infer- 
ences to be drawn about what chemical elements are to be 
found in the sun. Likewise indirect methods are found 
for studying living things. But inferences too abstractly 
indirect lead often to conclusions that seem rather fan- 
tastic when put against the evidence on which they are 
supposedly based. 

(3) The reduction of biology to the physical sciences. 
Let us, still accepting a method for biology derived from 
the method of the physical sciences, ask from a more 
general point of view whether the mechanist is justified in 
stating that biology may be reduced to the physical 
sciences, or the vitalist in denying that this is possible. 
The problem here separates into three problems. 

1 Driesch, op. cit. y pp. 3, 4. 


(i) The first will living things behave in accordance 
with the laws of the physical sciences? is already 
answered. So far as the method is postulated, science will 
strictly speaking deal only with those aspects of their 
behavior which do so behave. 

(ii) Second, we may consider what might be called 
'the order of knowledge.' How, in the conscious progress 
of our knowledge, do we learn about living things? The 
answer is clear enough. Whatever we may later infer, we 
first know living things as common-sense specific in- 
dividual wholes. Anything we know about cells or chemi- 
cal elements or atoms or electrons that 'make them up* 
comes later, in the same way that we know the common- 
sense water that we drink before we know the hydrogen 
and oxygen into which it may later be analyzed. And in 
this sense biology is autonomous, and cannot be reduced 
to the physical sciences. 

(iii) The mechanist might, however, argue that the 
reduction means something quite different from this; not 
that we know physics and chemistry first, but that, // our 
knowledge were complete enough, we could deduce biology 
from physics. This view fails to recognize what has been 
called 'the contingency of the actual/ 

Logic and mathematics form the basic discipline of 
science, and no individual science will 'violate' their 
laws. But granted this it does not follow that we can 
deduce anything about the content of particular sciences 
from logic and mathematics. They merely delimit ab- 
stract possibilities. We can be sure now and forever that 
2 plus 2 equals 4. This, however, guarantees nothing out- 
side of mathematics. From the knowledge of this alone 
we could not be sure even that we should ever meet with 
2 units and 2 other units to be added together. Much less 
could we know what particular kind of units they would 
be. The actual physical world (what the physical sciences 


study) is in no sense 'given ' in however complete a mathe- 
matics. From the standpoint of mathematics, that this 
earth, that sun, those stars, these trees, minerals, people, 
should be is an irreducible mystery. It is more difficult to 
summarize the content of physics as at present understood. 
Roughly, physics may be said to study the conditions of 
energy transformation. But even treating living things 
simply as physical machines capable of transforming 
energy, there is nothing in physics from which may be 
deduced the pure fact that there are such machines. From 
the standpoint of physical science this fact is contingent: 
things just happen to be the way they are. Biology studies 
such machines, such particular systems of energy trans- 
formation, which are not the same as the machines which 
are 'not living/ Even if the variables in the biologist's 
equations are regarded as ultimately electrons and protons, 
the functions of these variables which the biologist studies 
form a unique and autonomous class. 


Consciously and unconsciously modern science has from 
the beginning accepted mathematics as both foundation 
and ideal. All the early scientists were great mathema- 
ticians. The astronomy of Copernicus and Kepler was a 
direct application of Euclidean geometry and the theory 
of conic sections. Galileo, the founder of modern physics, 
wrote that " Nature's great book is written in mathe- 
matical language." Physics, after Newton's synthesis, 
became the 'type' science. The method of the physical 
sciences came to be accepted as the method for all sciences. 
In the last section we have accepted this method for 
science, and have studied within these limits the relation 
of biology to other sciences. We have now to ask an 
entirely different question: If biology is reflective knowl- 


edge about living things, is it wholly a science? Or, put 
in another way, if biology is a science, then does not our 
idea of science have to be expanded to include other 
than mathematical and physical methods? 

The question here has nothing to do with inevitable 
limitations of human knowledge. Granted the farthest 
possible extension in the physical knowledge of living 
things, would that tell us all about them there is to know? 
Are there not other ways that are legitimate of knowing 
living things? And the question is not one of our 'ideas' 
and 'feelings,' but of an objective reality. This is per- 
haps the fundamental issue between mechanists and 
vitalists. When the vitalist tacitly assumes 'physical' 
methods, his arguments are speculative and might some 
day be disproved. But this new issue is critical; no 
amount of factual knowledge can settle it; and in assert- 
ing the validity of other than physical ways of knowing 
living things the vitalist is entirely right. Other than 
physical methods can, it is true, be rejected, but not 
disproved. It is also true that other methods will not 
lead to exact laws that can be mathematically expressed; 
but why, it may be asked, should they? There is no 
reason to think that amenability to exact laws is the 
only test of reality; it simply limits what we shall, on 
certain occasions, call real. 

(1) The Whole. In arithmetic the whole is the sum 
of its parts. It is by definition identical with the sum of 
the parts; 2 is simply a more convenient way of writing 
I plus i the change is merely a sign change. 

But this is not true of experience in general. In fact 
we may say that a genuine whole is never merely the sum 
of its parts. If this sounds at first confusing we need only 
reflect that when we think in terms of wholes we are not 
regarding them as sums at all. The two notions are 
reciprocal; 'whole' and 'part' get meaning only through 


each other; and an absolute whole or absolute part is a 
merely logical limit. But it must be understood that a 
'whole* is not just a shorthand reference to an aggregate 
of parts; it is a different way of looking at things. 

Among the things that we know, wholeness is out- 
standingly displayed by living organisms, particularly by 
organisms of some complexity. The last phrase need not 
disturb us by suggesting that we shall be led to logical 
absurdities by trying to draw an exact line between what 
shows wholeness and what does not. Anything may be 
thought of as a whole; the solar system as a whole is 
different from a number of material bodies wandering 
around the heavens. Infusoria and other one-celled organ- 
isms show wholeness. But analysis from the point of 
view of wholeness becomes more and more relevant to 
organisms of increasing complexity; knowledge which 
neglects it becomes less and less adequate to problems 
which we may, if we wish to, raise. 

The physical sciences have no technique for the discus- 
sion of wholeness. To obtain exact laws they must ana- 
lyze big objects into little objects, large scale events 
into a succession of small scale events. And this is just 
where biology differs from the physical sciences: these 
little objects and small scale events, for the biologist, get 
their typical biological meaning only because they are 
parts of a whole. The biologists who do not recognize 
this are those like Loeb who might more accurately be 
called chemists using organisms as subjects for chemical 
analysis. Perhaps, in theory, the development from a 
single cell to, say, a mature cat might be analyzed as an 
orderly series of minute physical events; but the physi- 
cal series will never disclose the fact - as undoubted and 
objective a fact as any minute physical event that the 
development produces one whole specific individual. The 
knowledge of the physico-chemical events is certainly of 


great value to the biologist; in any organic activity innu- 
merable physico-chemical events occur; but the biological 
meaning emerges only when they are seen to be inter- 
related as dynamic functions of the one organism, as parts 
to a whole. 

Let us admit though we must realize that there are many 
biologists who do not admit it that, whether subject to what 
I may call emergence or not, there is here a kind of substantial 
unity that characterizes the going-together, within an organism, 
of diverse events no less special in kind. In other words there 
is here something different from anything we observe in the 
inorganic world. 1 

We do not have to follow Morgan in maintaining an 
absolute discontinuity from the inorganic; but we must 
follow him in realizing how much more relevant is this 
specific wholeness in the case of organisms. Someone cuts 
me in the hand with a knife, and within a few seconds 
innumerable events occur. The muscles of my arm con- 
tract, withdrawing my hand; adrenalin is secreted, chang- 
ing the chemical composition of my blood, and raising 
throughout my body muscular vigilance and tone; my 
heart beats faster, I breathe more rapidly; phagocytes 
rush from all over the blood stream to the cut, where 
infectious germs may be present; the pupils of my eyes 
contract, etc. But none of these events can be fully 
understood unless it is realized that they are all parts of a 
functionally related activity of me, one specific individual. 

(2) Teleology. We all understand what it is to have 
an aim in view and then to take steps to actualize it. 
We have the conscious intention of buying a pair of shoes, 
and we go to a shoe store and buy them. We want to be a 
good golf player, so we take lessons, watch experts, and 
practice. We wish to be respected in our community, and 

1 C. Lloyd Morgan, op. cit. 


therefore we conform to its more important customs. In 
these experiences we discover a relationship not taken 
account of by the physical sciences: the relation of means 
to end. There are two characteristics of this relation 
distinguishing it from the relation of physical causality: 
the present is in a sense determined by the future 
the end, which lies in the future, guides what we do 
in the present; but the particular means do not seem to 
be determined the end of becoming respected might 
be reached by various means, and does not dictate the 
particular details of our life. In philosophy the relation 
of means to end is called teleologlcal or telic (from the Greek 
word reXos meaning 'end'). 

We first get our knowledge of this relation from our own 
conscious purposing. Later we may structuralize it, and 
apply it as a method of analyzing experience in general. 
We may then eliminate the idea of conscious purposing, as 
when, for instance, we might say that the 'end' of an 
acorn is to become an oak tree. Many events that occur 
in the development of living things seem to be pre- 
eminently teleological. The cell differentiation and struc- 
tural differentiation all seem to come about as subsidiary 
to some end. The heart is developed to pump blood 
through veins and arteries; lungs to oxidize the blood; 
stomach and intestines to digest food; spinal cord and 
brain to sort nervous impulses; legs to move with; eyes 
to see with, etc. Moreover, when development is 
thwarted in one direction, it will take place in another, 
so that the original end will be served. Certain plants, 
for instance, build up their cells from certain groups of 
chemical elements. They will build up the cells in the 
same way even when the elements are differently com- 
bined in the soil where they grow; and it has been found 
that in some cases they will utilize other elements when 
the usual ones are not found in their environment. A heart 


with leaky valves will pump faster and [harder; a blind 
man develops super normal hearing and tactual sensi- 
tivity; a young tree transplanted to drier soil will send 
down deeper roots to where moisture may remain during 
the summer. 

Teleological analysis takes account in some measure 
of the whole, in a way that physical analysis cannot. It 
discloses among organic events not a mere succession in 
time but an interrelatedness in which each part functions 
as means toward some end related to the whole organism. 
The examples given above will illustrate the relation. The 
examples in books on biology are innumerable. We may 
select a few from J. A. Thompson: 

When eels migrate to spawning grounds; . . . when a dog 
hides an unfinished bone in a very unusual place; when Lord 
Avebury's dog Van goes to its box and brings out and arranges 
the letters T-A-E; when rooks take fresh-water mussels to a 
great height and let them fall on the shingle beneath so that they 
are broken; when a mother weasel, accompanied by one of her 
offspring, about to be overtaken on the links, seizes the young- 
ster in her mouth, dashes on ahead, and lays it in a sandy hole; 
when beavers cut a canal right through a large island in a river; 
when mares, some past foaling, unite to lift up between them a 
number of foals on the occasion of a great flood. ... In the 
making of the Vertebrate eye, an outgrowth from the brain 
forms the retinal cup, an independent ingrowth from the skin 
forms the lens, some mesoderm cells migrate into the interior 
to form the vitreous humour, others combine to form the protec- 
tive envelope, and so on. 1 

Organic teleology is often summed up under the vague 
and somewhat doubtful concept of 'adaptation/ 

During the Middle Ages all science was partly teleologi- 
cal, and an end for all reality was somehow in the con- 
sciousness of God. At the Renaissance physical science 

i Op. cit. 


threw out teleological explanations; the law of gravity 
made it no longer necessary to think of water 'seeking 
its own level/ But biology has remained, still remains, 
stubbornly teleological. An extreme mechanist denies 
teleology; but his denial rests in part at least on a mis- 
understanding. In the first place it is worth noting that 
almost all biology at the present time is in fact teleological; 
and teleology has thus a 'pragmatic sanction.' But the 
mechanist regards teleological explanations as simply 
rough preliminaries, to be replaced gradually by physical 
explanations. There is no prospect that his goal will 
ever be actually reached, but that is not the central error: 
teleology can never be disproved by mechanism; it is not 
contradictory to physics and chemistry; it is another and 
different method of analysis , and may always be employed 
if we wish to employ it. When the mechanist objects that 
it reads our conscious purposing into nature and is thus 
'anthropomorphic,' two replies can be made: why should 
it not be anthropomorphic? and, more specifically, so is 
any method and why should the structuralization of 
sight and muscular movements around the eye that pro- 
vides the content of relativity physics be more validly 
applied to reality than the structuralization of conscious 
ends ? 

It is important to understand that there is no necessary 
contradiction between teleological and causal analysis. 
We may describe breathing as a series of physical events; 
we may also relate these events as parts of one activity 
aiding the preservation of the whole organism; each ap- 
proach throws light on the other. But for the biologist 
the teleological problem is dominant; he will wish to 
extend his physical knowledge as far as possible, but in the 
end for the light it will throw on his own problems, which 
are not the same as those of the physicist. True, when 
physical explanations are found for occurrences among 


non-living things, such as light rays and falling bodies, we 
no longer consider teleological explanations necessary 
though they are still possible. But it is difficult to believe 
that this will happen in biology, for the reason that com- 
plex physical explanations become less and less relevant 
to the dominant problems that face us in the activity of 
living things. This is easy to realize: A group of homing 
pigeons were taken from their nests, put in a cage covered 
with a black cloth, carried several hundred miles in a 
ship, and released. Half of them flew back to their nests. 
Suppose (which is impossible) a complete account of this 
were given as a series of successive physical events. But 
what, after all, would be known? Far from telling us 
everything about what had happened, it would have 
omitted the most outstanding fact of all, a teleological 
fact: that the birds flew home to their nests. We may 
conclude, with Darcy Thompson, that "like warp and 
woof, mechanism and teleology are interwoven together, 
and we must not cleave to the one and despise the other; 
for their union is rooted 'in the very nature of totality'." 
(3) Non-logical aspects. The attack on a mechanistic 
biological science as a means for gaining knowledge of 
living things has been carried much further than has yet 
been suggested. For there are many writers, among whom 
Bergson is best known, who believe that discursive reason 
is powerless to give us any knowledge at all of life. For 
this we must rely on the immediate consciousness of our- 
selves as alive, and on 'intuition/ "the kind of intellectual 
sympathy by which one places oneself within an object in 
order to coincide with what is unique in it and conse- 
quently inexpressible " (An Introduction to Metaphysics y 
p. 7). This view, carried to its extreme, leads to 'bio- 
logical ideologies/ Duration, the essence of change itself, 
the Man vital or creative life force, which intuition reveals 
to us, is held to be the only real, and the whole world 


of science but its shadow derivatives. This reduction is as 
unacceptable as any other; what science tells us about is 
certainly one aspect of the real, and many think it is the 
most important. But, in a modified form, Bergson's 
approach is an excellent corrective to the mechanistic 
reduction. This is particularly true in our knowledge of 
ourselves and other human beings. Here physical expla- 
nations tend to become unusually irrelevant and often 
very silly. 

Take the case of sight (which Bergson uses). Seeing 
can be partly 'explained' as a series of the most amazingly 
complex physical events: light waves hitting my eye, 
being turned upside down in the lens, being focused on 
curious rods at the back of my eye, setting up molecular 
disturbances in the optical nerve, upsetting the physical 
balance throughout certain parts of the cerebral cortex, 
etc. But I also know sight in an entirely different way: 
I simply open my eyes and see, one simple direct immedi- 
ate activity. There is no question here of correlating 
the physical events and my seeing: the correlation would 
not mean anything. Correlation is possible only when the 
things to be correlated can be reduced to units between 
which mathematical relations can be established. But 
there are no units for the simple act of my seeing. Or 
again, in the case of what we mean by 'intelligence' or 
'personality/ If we choose to define intelligence as re- 
action time to specific stimuli or personality as verifiable 
glandular content, then perhaps a correlation would be 
possible between them and physico-chemical changes. 
But these are laboratory notions of intelligence and 
personality, and nothing like what we know in ourselves 
or in intimate friends. Some vague correlations are 
possible, such as between high blood pressure and nervous- 
ness, indigestion and irritability, sexual repression and 
moral intolerance; but no more, again for the obvious 


reason that it would not mean anything. The physico- 
chemical information is sometimes very interesting, and 
may prove useful; but good novels often have more to 
tell us about what we ordinarily mean by intelligence and 
personality than the most complete scientific textbook. 

This criticism may be emphasized by contrasting two 
quotations, both allegedly dealing with two inescapable 
facts: life and death. 

[Pierre, with other Russians, has been led out to be shot by 
the French, who are retreating from Moscow. They are to be 
shot in couples, and the first two couples have already fallen, 
though Pierre has turned his eyes away.] Then No. 5 was led 
out alone. Pierre was so terror-stricken that he failed to under- 
stand that he and the rest were reprieved; that they had only 
been brought out to see the execution of these five. The young 
workman started back as the soldiers touched him, and clung to 
Pierre; Pierre with a shudder, released himself from the grasp 
of the poor wretch who could not stand alone; they seized him 
by the arms, and dragged him along. He was shrieking with all 
his might; but when he was tied to the post he was silent, as if 
he understood that cries were useless, or hoped perhaps that he 
might yet be saved. 

Pierre's curiosity was stronger than his horror; this time he 
did not turn away or shut his eyes. The excitement he felt, 
and which was shared by the crowd, had reached an acute 
pitch. The victim had recovered himself; he buttoned up his 
coat, rubbed his bare feet one on the other, and arranged the 
knot of the bandage for his eyes himself; when he was tied to 
the post he drew himself up and stood straight on his feet, 
without losing his nerve again. A word of command was given, 
no doubt, and twelve muskets fired in obedience to it, but after- 
wards Pierre could never remember having heard them; he saw 
the man suddenly double up, blood spurted from two wounds, 
the cords yielded under the weight of the body, the head 
drooped and the legs gave way, so that the dying man hung in a 
curiously distorted posture. No one held him up. Those who 
stood nearest to him had turned pale, and the old moustachioed 


soldier's lip quivered as he untied the cords. The body fell in a 
heap; the soldiers clutched it clumsily, dragged it away and 
pushed it into the trench. They looked like criminals them- 
selves, hurriedly hiding the traces of a murder. 

Pierre glanced in. He could see the body of the workman 
with the knees drawn up to the head, and one shoulder higher 
than the other; that shoulder slowly rose and fell with convul- 
sive jerks but they were already throwing on shovelfuls of 
earth, forming a heap that covered him. One of the soldiers 
called to Pierre angrily; he did not hear him, but stood rooted 
to the spot. When the trench was filled up, another word of 
command was given. Pierre was led back slowly to his place, 
the soldiers faced half right about, and slowly marched past the 
stake. The twenty-four soldiers whose guns had been fired, 
fell in as the files went by them all but one, a young boy, as 
pale as death, who remained, without moving*from the spot by 
the side of the grave where he had stood to fire; his shako had 
fallen back on to the nape of his neck, and his musket was reversed : 
he staggered like a drunken man, swaying backwards and for- 
wards to save himself from falling. .An old sergeant ran towards 
him, seized him by the shoulder, and pulled him back to his 
place. The crowd slowly dispersed; every one hanging his head 
in silence. 

"That will teach them, those rascally incendiaries," said a 
Frenchman, and Pierre looked round to see who had spoken. 
It was a soldier, evidently trying to reconcile himself to the 
deed he had just done; but he did not finish his sentence, and 
went off with a dejected air. 1 

Scientifically, however, life begins (in the case of the sea- 
urchin and possibly in general) with the acceleration of the rate 
of oxidation in the egg, and this acceleration begins after the 
destruction of its cortical layer. Life of warm-blooded animals 
man included ends with the cessation of oxidation in the 
body. As soon as oxidations have ceased for some time, 
the surface films of the cells, if they contain enough water and if 
the temperature is sufficiently high, become permeable for 
1 Tolstoi, War and Peace. 


bacteria, and the body is destroyed by micro-organisms. The 
problem of the beginning and end of individual life is physico- 
chemically clear. It is, therefore, unwarranted to continue 
the statement that in addition to the acceleration of oxidations 
the beginning of individual life is determined by the entrance 
of a metaphysical 'life principle' into the egg; and that death 
is determined, aside from the cessation of oxidations, by the 
departure of this 'principle' from the body. In the case of the 
evaporation of water we are satisfied with the explanation given 
by the kinetic theory of gases and do not demand that to 
repeat a well-known jest of Huxley the disappearance of the 
'aquosity* be also taken into consideration. 1 

Both these passages are supposedly accounts of life and 
death. But even if Loeb's were complete in terms of elec- 
trons or some such unit, what from it would we know 
about? We would certainly know a great deal about 
electrons, but life and death would have quite disappeared. 


So far the discussion has centered around the individual 
organism. There is, however, another group of biological 
questions which takes up the relations among the dif- 
ferent kinds of organisms. It is these that are referred 
to by the theory of evolution. The critical and philo- 
sophic problems of evolution are not, however, dissimilar 
to those of the individual organism, and they will be 
treated in less detail. 

The concept of evolution is disturbingly vague and 
fruitful analysis of it is difficult. Often it is so extended 
as to mean little more than that things succeed each 
other in time, and are not in all respects the same now as 
they once were an observation which is not illuminat- 
ing. We shall begin therefore by narrowing down the 

1 Loeb, The Mechanistic Conception of Life. 


problem to that of biological evolution, which deals 
chiefly with the possible interrelatedness of living things 
on the earth. This, in turn, is usually approached 
through the problem of the Origin of Species, which is, 
in fact, the title of Darwin's famous book. The most 
casual observation shows us on the earth innumerable 
different kinds of living things; in fact each organism of 
any complexity is different from every other. Neverthe- 
less, organisms seem to suggest more or less obvious 
groupings: there are, for instance, many varieties of men, 
but they all seem to fit into a general class 'man'; and in 
the same way, dogs, horses, trout, rattle-snakes, roses, elm 
trees, echinoderms, amoebas, etc. These more general 
classes are called 'species'; and in most species there are 
many 'varieties/ Species can be subsumed under still 
more general classes ('genera/ 'families,' etc.) according 
to various principles of differentiation mammals and 
marsupials, vertebrates and invertebrates, plants and 
animals. Now a primary question that biology asks is 
whether these classifications, particularly according to 
species, mark simply convenient ways of arranging our 
knowledge, or genuine discontinuities in nature. 

As we have seen an individual organism always de- 
velops from a single cell; but this cell was once -part of 
another organism whose individual development occurred 
earlier in time. This holds without exception, within the 
limits of observation. There is thus a real material con- 
tinuity connecting any now living organism with a line of 
ancestors stretching back indefinitely in time. The ques- 
tion, then, might be put in this way: Are all the direct 
line ancestors of a given organism belonging to a given 
species of that same species? To ordinary observation, 
the answer would certainly seem to be yes. A man and 
a woman always have a human child, a dog and a bitch 
a puppy, a fertilized rose seed develops into another rose. 


Crossing of species either does not produce offspring, or 
produces hybrids that are usually sterile. 

(1) This common-sense answer was generally accepted 
until the nineteenth century. The origin of species was 
explained by the first chapter of Genesis. Genesis states 
that at one time God created ex nihilo a male and female 
member of each species and that these were the ancestors 
of all the specific varieties that have populated the earth. 
Genesis y that is, accepts the discontinuity of species. To- 
day comparatively few educated people accept literally the 
account in Genesis. This change is not due wholly to the 
strength of the factual evidence against Genesis, but in 
some measure to a weakening of general belief in divine 
Revelation (here through the Bible) and in a conscious 
Creator who now and then takes an active interest in the 
universe though in its turn the factual evidence has 
contributed to the weakened belief in Revelation and an 
active Creator. Science does not admit this belief into 
its reasonings, and has built up substantial arguments in 
favor of evolution (specific continuity) as opposed to the 
form of explanation in Genesis. Some of the leading argu- 
ments may be summarized as follows: 

(i) Paleontology. Geology suggests that much land 
and many mountains have been built up in layers by slow 
deposit on the bottom of seas and lakes. A relative time 
sequence can be established with the help of these layers. 
In them are found curious imprints and sometimes actual 
structures which are interpreted as the remains of organ- 
isms which lived when or just before the layer was being 
formed. Certain facts seem to emerge: many organisms 
were evidently unlike any now on the earth; there is in 
some cases a kind of gradual series or development through 
time such as from the small five-toed eohippus to later 
organisms more and more nearly like the modern horse. 

(ii) Geographical distribution. Geology suggests that 


what are now separate islands, or mainland and neigh- 
boring islands, were once continuous stretches of land. 
In such cases, varieties of the same species differ more 
from one now isolated place to what was formerly con- 
nected with it than within the place. 

(iii) Anatomical and physiological analogy. There are 
certain analogies in structure and function between mem- 
bers of different species for example, man and ape. 

(iv) Embryology. In development the embryo of a 
complex organism goes through stages having certain anal- 
ogies with the general development of organisms suggested 
by (i). 

(v) Vestigial organs. In certain organisms there are 
organs which are apparently of no use to the organism, 
but which might possibly have been of some use to a hypo- 
thetical unlike ancestor. 

(vi) Stock and plant breeding. By suitable cross and 
selective breeding, animals and plants can be produced 
differing considerably from previously known varieties. 

(vii) Controlled experiment. The more exact stage in 
the study of evolution was begun in the late nineteenth 
century when Hugo De Vries revived controlled experi- 
ments such as had been made some use of by Lamarck 
and Mendel. Considerable specific modification has been 
brought about under conditions admitting a good deal of 

How much does this evidence prove? About the conti- 
nuity of species, which is the point at issue, in spite 
of the intrinsic interest of the evidence, it proves very 
little; though it does lend specific continuity some proba- 
bility. Taken individually, each argument is weak and 
can be effectively countered. Argument (i) gives a high 
probability to the proposition that organisms showing a 
vague general development have successively occupied the 
earth, some remaining, and some disappearing. But, by 


itself, it gives no probability to the proposition that 
this involved specific continuity. Argument (iii), by it- 
self, is destroyed as soon as differences, which are as 
numerous, instead of similarities, are emphasized. Argu- 
ment (iv) treats the human embryo as a microcosmic 
analogue of the biological universe; but when the analogy 
is pressed the actual succession of forms in the develop- 
ing embryo is not the same as the succession inferred from 
(i). Argument (v) is made doubtful by the fact that con- 
crete evidence of the existence of hypothetical ancestors 
to whom the vestigial organs might have been actually 
useful is very scarce. Arguments (vi) and (vii), do, 
however, take away much of the a priori implausibility 
once thought to surround the notion of the alterability 
of species. And when the arguments are taken together, 
the situation is altered: for evolution has at least some 
plausibility with reference to the facts pointed out by 
all of them; whereas no other hypothesis yet thought of, 
except for creative acts by God, which are scientifically 
inadmissible, covers them all. Except for evolution, it 
is necessary to have a separate explanation for each group 
of evidence, and this is contrary to the scientific require- 
ment of simplicity. 

There is no doubt that the arguments for evolution 
seem more convincing than a strict logical analysis will 
justify. This is partly because of the acceptance at the 
present time of two postulates which we have met in other 
connections: (a) the belief in the general continuity and 
interrelatedness of nature, which involves the belief that 
changes (which, for science, are not 'real changes/ but 
transformations) occur gradually, by small steps; (V) the 
scientific rejection of creation ex nihilo. It might seem 
that these two postulates are hardly more than empirical 
generalizations, thoroughly demonstrated by ordinary ob- 
servation. But in fact this is not the case. We interpret 


experience to make it conform with them. True enough, if 
we keep close watch over a process of development, such 
as the growth of a child, we see that the change is gradual. 
We generalize this by analogy; if we meet a man who has 
the same name as a child we knew fifteen years before, we 
infer that the same gradual, continuous process has gone 
on. There is less evidence against creation ex nihilo; 
from a na'ive point of view things might seem to be contin- 
ually created and destroyed; but here too we always find 
an interpretation that provides for their previous and 
future existence. These two postulates give an a priori 
credibility to the theory of evolution; they make it some- 
what probable without any proof whatsoever. This might 
be interpreted in several ways : either such types of reason- 
ing are unconsciously forced on us by the character of 
reality; or we unconsciously force them ; or perhaps they 
are part of what may be called the 'thought- form' of our 
age. They are connected with the mathematical view of 
reality we all, at least as scientists, tend to have. The 
notion of a mature cat suddenly springing into existence 
we find rationally inadmissible; but by spreading the 
creation out over many million years, it becomes less 
repulsive. To a limited extent almost all men have ac- 
cepted these postulates in modified forms. It is some- 
times overlooked that few of the opponents of evolution 
doubt the common ancestry of man. Yet this is no more 
than probable. There are certainly vast differences be- 
tween African pygmies and high-caste Hindus and Chinese 
mandarins and Australian Bushmen and blue-eyed Nordics, 
and these cannot be accounted for at all directly by any- 
thing we have been able to observe. 

The truth is that the hypothesis of evolution is not an 
exact scientific theory comparable to many theories in 
physics and chemistry. It is a somewhat vague notion, 
moderately convincing when left vague, but full of mys- 


teries when we try to make it precise. Biologists try to 
avoid the difficulty this indicates by distinguishing be- 
tween the /act of evolution, which they consider highly 
probable, and the means of evolution, about which they 
confess they know little. This distinction is rather sophis- 
tical, but accepting it, and accepting, for the purposes of 
discussion, the fact of evolution, we may consider a few 
of the problems it suggests. Because of the vagueness, 
it is impossible to separate clearly speculative from critical 
problems, but for convenience we shall attempt to sepa- 
rate those that are primarily speculative from those 
primarily critical. 

(2) Speculative problems, (i) The unity of life. Have 
all the forms of life living now and having lived on the 
earth one common life-ancestry, presumably from a single 
original one-celled organism, or are there several lines of 
descent? The reasoning made use of by evolution seems 
to suggest a single original, but any speculation on this 
point is and will always be so tenuous that no answer 
can have more than a very small probability. One-celled 
organisms leave no record in the rocks and this is the only 
even indirect approach to factual evidence. We have to 
go on, therefore, only dialectical elaboration, and our 
answer will no doubt be dictated by general beliefs about 
the universe. 

(ii) The origin of life. If we grant that all organisms 
descend from one or more single-celled living organisms, 
we may still ask where these come from? To this there 
seem to be three possible answers, only two of which are 
admissible by science: 

(a} Life evolved from the non-living. This is partly a 
critical question, and will be referred to later. Some light 
might be thrown on this answer by the manufacture of life 
in a laboratory; though this would not necessarily prove 
that life had originally begun in the laboratory manner. 


(b) Arrhenius, a chemist and biologist, suggested that 
life was, like the basic physical units, an eternal element 
of the universe, wandering here and there throughout 
inter-stellar space. One germ of life struck the earth at 
a time and in a place suitable for its development. Both 
this and (#), it will be observed, throw out any question 
of ' absolute* origin, following the general method of 

(c) God or some other supernatural agent created life 
ex nihilo at a particular time in the earth's history. 

(iii) ^he direction of evolution. This problem (its norma- 
tive aspects) is partly critical, and will be returned to. 
But it is also speculative: does the evidence suggest any 
direction in which evolution is moving? We need not 
here think of any final goal, but simply the direction in 
which it has moved. The early writers on evolution, who 
had few facts to go on and consequently more imaginative 
freedom, thought they could point out a definite direction. 
Contemporary biologists, with more facts and soberer 
judgment, are more cautious. But is there anything that 
can be said with some degree of probability? 

If we remain sufficiently vague, it can be said that there 
has been during the course of evolution an increase in 
complexity. At least, this much is true: that if life started 
with one-celled organisms, there are now organisms much 
more complex from any point of view. But when we 
become more precise we discover that we have no proper 
standard of complexity, and that, using any standard, the 
development has not been uniform. Fish now extinct 
were anatomically far more complex than many if not all 
existing fish. It is hard to see that the hoof of the horse 
is more complex than the five toes of the eohippus, from 
which presumably the horse developed. Many of the 
prehistoric giant reptiles seem to have been more complex 
than present reptiles. A more exact standard has been 


sought in complexity of the nervous system, and this leads 
to some definite conclusions. Men and apes, who have the 
most complex nervous systems, are comparatively late 
comers, and the line here is rather more direct. A re- 
lated standard is ' functional differentiation ' the devel- 
opment of different organs to do separate functions once 
done by the same organ. Increase of functional differen- 
tiation usually means increase of neural complexity as well 
as more complex behavior, and these do provide, in very 
general terms, a partial standard for direction, but the 
development has not been at all in a straight line. 

A most general concept to describe the direction of 
evolution has been sought in adaptation: development 
is always toward increased 'adaptation to environment/ 
This concept is useful in suggesting ways of studying 
specific examples of organic development; but on analy- 
sis it proves to be as vague as the others. What can be 
meant by increased or better adaptation? There is the 
disconcerting fact that the one-celled organisms, the 
first comers, are still here with apparently no change, 
as well as many intermediate species, though countless 
other species have disappeared. Does increased adapta- 
tion mean longer life ? But parrots, elephants, turtles have 
longer lives than man, who arrived later, and one-celled 
organisms are in a sense immortal. Does it mean ability 
to meet unexpected environmental situations? But the 
ways in which different sorts of organisms react are often 
incommensurate there is no adequate basis for com- 
parison between the stylized life of bees or ants and the 
haphazard life of men. 

The view accepted by most contemporary biologists 
is that there are many different lines of evolution, carried 
through in many directions. Along each, adaptation can 
provide a rough standard; sometimes the line is successful, 
and continues; sometimes not, and dies out. 


(iv) Continuous variation or abrupt mutation. The 
question here is whether the change from species to species 
has taken place by a series of minute modifications or by 
sudden leaps (mutations). Darwin held the first view, 
according to which each of the great changes we can ob- 
serve from one species to a presumably later species may 
be resolved into an indefinite number of small changes. It 
is supported by a certain amount of evidence, such as the 
horse ancestry already mentioned. But most contempo- 
rary biologists have abandoned it. It leaves too many 
inexplicable gaps. There is not only the well known fail- 
ure to discover fossil remains of the so-called 'missing 
links,' but the more glaring fact of the comparative 
stability of existing species and the often great distances 
between them. This issue has a direct bearing on the 
critical problems of evolution: for a large scale mutation 
is a change of the organism as a whole, and as such irra- 
tional in a mechanistic account. 

(v) ^fhe future of man. Does evolution give any evi- 
dence about what is to happen to the human race? It 
suggests that human life has been present on the earth 
a very small time compared with the time life has been 
present. It gives no support to the view that man is the 
*end,' the final goal of the process of development. It 
suggests that if the line of evolution reached by man 
continues, man will be in the future considerably modified. 
This last conclusion is sometimes thought to prophesy a 
'super-man' of the distant future. But from the point 
of view of men's present ideals and desires the being to 
be evolved might well be inferior to contemporary man. 
Biologically man is far from a success. He is subject to 
the ravages of many diseases that do not affect other 
species; there is some evidence that insects, parasites, 
and germs will destroy his means of nutrition; he deliber- 
ately multiplies his own troubles, which other species 


do not seem to do; he is inventing more efficacious ways 
of destroying his own species without being prodigally 
fertile as are other self-destroying species. In fact bio- 
logical evidence might suggest that the line of evolution 
of which man is the most recent product is proved by 
man to be so unsuccessful that with man it will be allowed 
to die out. 

(3) Critical problems, (i) Categories to be used. There 
are two obvious requisites for any theory of evolution: 
that there should be variations, and that these variations 
should be inheritable. There are many theories, and as 
in the case of theories about the individual organism, 
they can be roughly divided into mechanistic and vitalistic 
theories, though as before many different things can be 
meant by these two. Darwin began the mechanistic 
approach, setting up the principle he called natural selec- 
tion^ and which his follower, Herbert Spencer, ideologized 
into the survival of the fittest. Spencer's phrase is unfortu- 
nate, for he misinterpreted it to mean the survival of the 
best or the most valuable, with which science, properly 
speaking, is not concerned. By natural selection is meant 
that in the 'struggle for existence' those organisms best 
fitted to exist, best adapted to their environment, will 
win out; the others will be killed off, by the better fitted 
or by their own inability to meet natural conditions 
(weather, food situation, etc.), and will not be able to 
reproduce. It is easy to see, however, that natural 
selection is a tautology: the survival of the fittest means 
simply "the survival of the fittest to survive" or, 
"those who survive do survive." The importance of the 
principle is to suggest looking for the specific factors which 
do in fact make for survival. 

In any case, natural selection does not provide for the 
appearance of new factors, but only for selection among 
those already present. Darwin observed that in the mem- 


bers of each species there is a continuous variation (each 
individual is slightly different from every other); these 
variations were by * chance'; and among them he believed 
that selection took place. It has been shown, however, 
that continuous variation probably cancels out; so in its 
place, theory has substituted small chance mutations, 
which are inheritable. 

The Darwinian concepts are rough, and not suitable 
for a developed science. Common sense may speak of a 
bird inheriting the ability to build nests, or a vertebrate 
its complicated eye; but a rigid carrying out of the 
mechanistic position demands more precision. The ma- 
terial bond of continuity between one organism and the 
next is the single fertilized egg cell; and therefore the 
physical structure accounting for the whole development 
of the organism must be found in this cell. Consequently, 
any change that is to be transmitted to a succeeding 
organism must result in a physico-chemical modification 
of the germ cell. Some experimental work has been done 
along these lines: certain experiments, for instance, sug- 
gest that ultra-violet rays tend to promote small chance 
mutations in certain plants and insects. But very little 
is known or even guessed at about exactly what physico- 
chemical factors, whether environmental or intra-organic, 
bring about inheritable modifications. 

Criticism of the mechanistic treatment of evolution 
would be much the same as the general criticism of mecha- 
nism already given, and need not be repeated. On the 
basis of present evidence the inadequacy of any mechanis- 
tic explanations so far devised is apparent; and many 
vitalists believe that there is already sufficient evidence 
to show that even from a factual point of view no mecha- 
nistic explanation could be adequate. The evidence for 
large scale mutations has already been referred to: 
these, involving considerable modifications throughout 


the organism as well as great changes in individual 
morphogenesis, cannot, apparently, be analyzed into a 
series of small changes. They require emphasis on the 
organism as a whole and on teleological analysis, which 
lies outside the possibilities of physical science. Vitalists, 
therefore, extend the notion of an Slan vital or entelechy 
from the individual organism to life in general. The non- 
physical elan vital, making use of physical elements for its 
own purposes, is the ultimate reality back of the evolu- 
tionary process. Teleological considerations, as well as 
'perception* and 'consciousness/ are brought in as factors 
helping to explain evolutionary development though 
often, as with Bergson's elan vital, no consciousness in 
the usual sense is implied. 

They [the deeper manifestations of life] may be regarded as 
directly analogous to behaviour-responses for the reason that 
they show the same objective characteristics, namely the * whole- 
action* of the organism, active tendency or striving towards an 
end, and adaptibility to circumstances ... no hypothesis as to 
the inner experience of the cognitive is implied, and in particular 
it is unnecessary to assume any actual conscious willing of 
response with foresight of the end. 1 

Can any zoologist who deals with birds and mammals (to 
go no lower), either in the routine of their daily life, or in the 
history of evolutionary advance, disregard the part played by 
their * powers of perception/ their intelligence/ and so forth. 2 

But once again, no matter how the speculative matters 
should be settled, the critical question still remains: 
Even if true, how relevant is a mechanistic explanation 
to certain aspects of life in general, and particularly of 
the 'higher forms' of life? Bergson's tlan vital may from 
this point of view be interpreted as the assertion of the 
greater value of what is alive. The intuition, through 

1 Russell, quoted by Morgan, op. cit. * Morgan, ibid. 


intellectual sympathy, of the life force, is knowledge of 
'reality' because it is knowledge of what is most valu- 
able, what is obscured or sterilized by the methods of 
science. Another aspect of the same critical problem has 
been stressed by the theories of emergent evolution. They 
all maintain that during the course of evolution what is 
genuinely new has appeared: life itself, sensation and 
perception, conscious purpose, intelligence. This may be 
thought to mean not so much that scientific method may 
not be theoretically true throughout, but that during 
the course of evolution there have appeared organisms to 
whose typical and unique activities it is less and less 
relevant; that other than physical ways of knowing must 
be brought in if we are to understand living things, and 
preeminently, man. 

(ii) Cosmic evolution. Organic evolution is often 
treated as but one comparatively brief episode in a uni- 
versal 'cosmic evolution.' Here earlier large scale events 
include the 'birth' of the sun, the production of the 
planets, of their satellites, the cooling down of the earth; 
and later events include the completion of organic evolu- 
tion on the earth, which is to become unfit for life, the 
running down of the solar system, etc. In both directions 
the process tapers off into numerical immensities. But 
it is clear that if we speak of cosmic 'evolution' the 
word 'evolution* has been stretched so far beyond its 
biological connotations (which are at least comprehensibly 
precise) that only a misguided good will can make us 
think we are talking about ' the same thing.' The analogy 
between the birth of the solar system or of a new kind of 
atom and the birth of a man is by grace of a metaphor 
so strained as to be devoid of any but an emotive content. 

(iii) Evolution and man. We have already discussed 
what evidence evolution gives about man's future bio- 
logical history. But there remain other critical problems, 


such as the relation of evolution and the ideologies based 
on it to man's conception of himself, and the evaluation of 
the evolutionary process whether we are to regard it 
as a progress or a regress. It is difficult to know what 
it means to say that evolution is a progress; progress 
implies some kind of goal by which the progress can be 
measured, and no biological evidence gives the slightest 
indication of what the goal of evolution may be, if there 
is any goal which biology makes appear more than 
doubtful. There is not the slightest evidence that man is 
the goal of evolution, or even, as has been pointed out, 
that a 'superman' is the goal. Nevertheless, man is one 
of the latest products of evolution, and for this reason we 
do tend to feel that evolution up to now has been a 
progress because it has managed to develop us. This 
feeling, however, does not refer to progress in any physical 
sense, but rather in terms of value: what we hold to be 
of value in the universe is primarily associated with the 
conscious life of human beings, and this is a late product 
of evolution. But these values, because they are from 
the evolutionary standpoint so recent and so transitory, 
seem somehow to diminish in importance. This is due, 
as was suggested in the last chapter, in part to a confusion 
of categories big numbers need not regulate the struc- 
ture of value judgments but there can be no doubt 
that this has been an effect of the spread of evolutionary 
theories. Man no longer appears issuing from the hand of 
God; even if, in the end, God is responsible, he seems to 
have taken less direct and personal interest in man's 
creation. Man finds himself both more alone in and more 
opposed to the rest of the universe, and at the same time 
more inextricably and relentlessly bound up with its 
history, for which he is the briefest of episodes. 



The pursuance of future ends and the choice of means for 
their attainment are thus the mark and criterion of the presence 
of mentality in a phenomenon. . . . We impute no mentality 
to sticks and stones, because they never seem to move for the 
sake of any thing, but always when pushed, and then indifferently 
and with no sign <5f choice. So unhesitatingly we call them 
senseless. 1 

This is doubtless a good working distinction. But as 
we have seen in the last chapter, there is no sharp line 
between where teleological categories can be applied and 
where they cannot. Logically and abstractly, both a 
causal and a telic interpretation are possible for any 
phenomenon. To be sure, in some phenomena notably 
in organisms a causal explanation would be hopelessly 
complicated. Complicatedness alone, however, would 
not justify a telic interpretation. It would mean merely 
that our 'explanations' (provided our problem were one 
of fact) would have to be statistical and approximate, 
instead of applying more directly to individual events. 
Telic explanations are introduced not merely because the 
situation to be explained is complicated but because our 
problem about it is telic. 

Now we can accept, and in the biology of lower organic 
forms we do accept, a telic analysis as relevant without 
necessarily attributing 'mind* ('mentality' James) to 
the object we are analyzing. Unless, of course, we define 
1 mind ' to mean the telic aspect of things. But in that case 

i William James, Psychology. Vol. I, p. 8. 


we must differentiate conscious minds from telic situa- 
tions where the only consciousness we suppose to be 
present is our own or someone else's consciousness of the 
objects in question; the objects themselves not being 
supposed to be conscious of anything. This difference is 
all-important to us as humans, and we should beware of 
theories that in the interest of logical simplicity try to 
explain it away. As we saw in Chapter VI, to 'explain 
away' is always to do so from a single point of view and 
with reference to a single standard of what is real. Dia- 
lectically this always enables us to assert another point 
of view another standard of reality. from which the 
thing that is being explained away became worth talking 
about in the first place. 

In the present chapter the point of view from which we 
start is individual consciousness. This can be explained 
away by a variety of expedients: by behaviorists, as 
reducible to physiological responses; by psychoanalysts, 
as rationalizations of and censors to various 'unconscious' 
impulses whose character is largely unknown but is at 
least partly sexual; by some modern philosophers of the 
'neo-realist' school, as the focus for a certain grouping 
of universal qualities; by pantheists, as a fragmentary 
part of God's nature. We shall consider such doctrines 
and others for whatever light they may throw on the 
nature of consciousness, but our central problem here will 
be individual consciousness, and not reflexes nor God 
nor any other dialectically related entity. 

Referring to myself as a conscious individual I use the 
word 'I/ This word is in one respect quite unique: it has 
an entirely different reference for every person who uses it. 
The problem of individual consciousness can be stated as 
the problem of what, in each person's case, it means to be 
an 'I' or an 'ego/ 

Sometimes the problem is put differently (and more 


loosely): Ha ve 1 a ' mind ' ? Have I a soul? Such questions 
give rise to hopeless confusion unless before trying to 
answer them we try to straighten out the tangled meanings 
of such words as 'mind/ 'soul/ 'consciousness.' These 
questions are misleading, and involve us in needless dia- 
lectical quibbling. For whatever answer we give to a 
question like "Have I a soul?" there is one question left 
over as an irreducible remainder: What do I mean by this 
'I' that I am inquiring about? For I cannot doubt that 
there is an 'I,' without contradiction; at least 'I* doubt. 

It has been maintained (by Russell and others) that the 
use of 'I* is merely a necessity of grammar, imposed by 
the subject-predicate form of the English and cognate 
languages; that instead of saying "7 feel warm" it would 
be more correct to say, There is a quality of warm, 
connected with certain perceptions, memory images, 
kinesthetic, emotional, and perhaps cerebral tendencies 
which, given an adequate linguistic equipment, I might 
specify, and which are what differentiate the quality 
warm as *I feel it' from the same quality grouped differ- 
ently, or as we say, 'felt by someone else.' It can be 
pointed out, however, that such a position is simply one 
possible answer to our question and does not deny the 
question's legitimacy. All it tries to deny is one orthodox 
answer to the question, according to which the 'I' is a 
soul-substance having such qualities as independence of 
the body, immortality, and a special relation to God. 
We shall examine this orthodox answer in the course of 
the historical survey of the problem, which follows. 

To approach the problem of individual consciousness 
chiefly through a historical survey is a departure from the 
method employed in the two previous chapters. But 
it is necessary to keep in mind that western philosophy 
has a history, a more or less continuous tradition; and 
that, as was pointed out in Chapter I, many of its prob- 


lems, in spite of changing verbal appearances, have 
remained throughout fundamentally the same. Conse- 
quently it is somewhat artificial to analyze basic notions 
only from a supposedly 'modern* point of view, only as 
they appear today in fashionably accepted doctrines. 
Indeed, we cannot fully understand what philosophical 
problems now mean without knowing them as developed 
through the general philosophic tradition. And often 
we can become critical toward the contemporary preju- 
dices that inevitably condition our own ways of thinking 
only by examining these prejudices against a background 
of others by which we are no longer so intimately bound. 


(1) Primitive. The conception of the soul most usual in 
savage societies has these characteristics: first, it is attrib- 
uted not only to humans but to many animals and what 
we would call inanimate things as well; second, it is con- 
ceived as something material that is as something 
occupying space, though perhaps insensible to touch and 
only intermittently sensible to vision. 

As the savage commonly explains the processes of inanimate 
nature by supposing that they are produced by living beings 
working in or behind the phenomena, so he explains the phe- 
nomena of life itself. If an animal lives and moves, it can only 
be, he thinks, because there is a little animal inside which 
moves it: if a man lives and moves, it can only be because he 
has a little man or animal inside who moves him. The animal 
inside the animal, the man inside the man, is the soul. 1 

Often, however, it is regarded simply as breath, probably 
on the double ground that the dead stop breathing, which 
suggests that it was their breathing (i.e. air, wind) which 
animated them while alive, and that ghosts (that is, 

1 J. G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, i vol. cd., p.. 178. 


souls of the dead, for which there is plenty of evidence: 
for one thing, they appear to men in dreams) have the 
same tenuous, untouchable quality as air. At any rate the 
close relation of the notions of soul and breath are tes- 
tified by etymological similarities in many languages: 
TTJ/cC/ia, ^vx'fjy Geist y anima ( = breath, soul), spirit (from 

Death means a departure of the soul, whatever its 
nature, from the body, and many of the rites connected 
with dying are intended either to prevent this departure 
or to speed the soul on its way with fit ceremony. 

The soul. is commonly supposed to escape by the natural 
openings of the body, especially the mouth and nostrils. Hence 
in Celebes they sometimes fasten fish-hooks to a sick man's nose, 
navel, and feet, so that if his soul should try to escape it may be 
hooked and held fast. . . . When any one yawns in their pres- 
ence the Hindoos always snap their thumbs, believing that this 
will hinder the soul from issuing through the open mouth. . . . 
On the other hand, the Itonamas of South America seal up the 
eyes, nose, and mouth of a dying person, in case his ghost 
should get out and carry off others; and for a similar reason the 
people of Nias, who fear the spirits of the recently deceased and 
identify them with the breath, seek to confine the vagrant soul 
in its earthly tabernacle by bunging up the nose or tying up the 
jaws of the corpse. . . .* 

The Santals tell how a man fell asleep, and growing very 
thirsty, his soul, in the form of a lizard, left his body and entered 
a pitcher of water to drink. Just then the owner of the pitcher 
happened to cover it; so the soul could not return to the body 
and the man died. While his friends were preparing to burn the 
body some one uncovered the pitcher to get water. The lizard 
thus escaped and returned to the body, which immediately re- 
vived; so the man rose up and asked his friends why they were 
weeping. They told him they thought he was dead and were 
about to burn his body. He said he had been down a well to 
1 Frazer, f'4iV., p. 180. 


get water, but had found it hard to get out and had just re- 
turned. So they saw it all. 1 

Sometimes again, the soul is identified with a man's 
shadow. In which case, it should not be trampled on or 
struck or stabbed, or the man will grow ill. If it is sepa- 
rated from his body the man will die. 

In the island of Wetar there are magicians who can make a 
man ill by stabbing his shadow with a pike or hacking it with a 
sword. After Sankara had destroyed the Buddhists in India, 
it is said that he journeyed to Nepaul, where he had some dif- 
ference of opinion with the Grand Lama. To prove his super- 
natural powers, he soared into the air. But as he mounted up 
the Grand Lama, perceiving his shadow swaying and wavering 
on the ground, struck his knife into it and down fell Sankara and 
broke his neck. 2 

(2) Early Greek versions of the soul, (i) Physical theo- 
ries. Anaximenes, who died about 520 B.C., retained the 
primitive notion of the soul as air, and expanded it into the 
rudiments of a metaphysical theory. "Our soul because 
it is of air, is in each of us a principle of union; so, too, 
breath or air contains the whole world." It will be noted 
that although Anaximenes 1 conception of the soul is 
primitively material, it nevertheless serves as a model for 
the world, not the world for it. The Greeks tended to be 
humanists and to see human qualities everywhere; hence 
Anaximenes thinks of the world as a living thing, subject 
even to birth and death; hence wants it to breathe, to 
be filled with the vital principle, breath or air, that moti- 
vates humans. 

The doctrine of Democritus was more deliberately 
materialistic. The nature of the soul follows as a corollary 
of the alleged nature of the physical world. All reality 
is reducible to atoms hurtling about in an infinite void, 

1 Ibid., p. 182. J Ibid., pp. 189-190. 


and qualitative differences are reducible to geometric dif- 
ferences in the shapes, arrangements, and positions of the 
atoms. The soul is made of round, smooth, very subtile 
and mobile atoms, the same as those from which fire is 

Vision, usually held to be the most important of our 
senses, is explained as follows. Objects give off 5ct/c\a 
(simulacra) of themselves, which keep the specific charac- 
teristics of the objects from which they are given off. 
They act like stamps on the air between the object and 
the eye, and impressions left on the air are reflected by the 
eye as by a mirror. Thought is a wholly internal move- 
ment of the images reflected inward (as sensations) by 
the process just described. 

(ii) Pythagoreanism. The doctrine of the soul held by 
Pythagoras and his followers has two chief aspects: the 
one a refinement of the primitive notion of the soul as 
something within the body and therefore in a sense spatial, 
the other a more advanced notion of the soul as nothing 
that takes up space at all, but as a harmony of the body. 

(a) The body (crci/za) is a tomb (crij/ia), wherein the soul 
is imprisoned for past faults. Usually no attempt is made 
by the Pythagoreans to describe more minutely what the 
journeying soul is composed of, though, according to 
Aristotle, "some of them declared soul to be tiny particles 
in the air." Cebes, in Plato's Phaedo, speaking as a 
Pythagorean, says the soul weaves several mortal bodies 
for itself in succession, at length wearing itself out in the 
process, and dying before the last of its garments has 

(b) The soul is a harmony of the body. The body is like 
a lyre, stretched by contraries, and if the tension is in- 
creased or relaxed too much the soul dies. This is a kind 
of metaphysication of the Greek doctrine of the Mean. 
Aristotle refers to this same view in the De Anima: 


"They declare the soul to be a kind of harmony; and by 
harmony they mean a blending and combining of opposites; 
and the body is composed of opposites." Aristotle, 
however, criticized this view as too passive, since, he 
argued, the soul is a cause of motion, whereas harmony 
does not cause motion; and he further pointed out that 
not all bodily functions are in mutual harmony har- 
mony is an attribute of an excellent state, namely health, 
whether of soul or of body. 

(3) Plato. The two aspects of the Pythagorean doctrine 
are not consistent. The soul is regarded both as an en- 
during, perhaps immortal, substance that has taken up 
temporary residence in the body, and as a harmony, that 
is to say a mere functional result of the body's working. 
This latter conception would mean that the soul has no 
existence apart from the body, and is certainly not im- 

It might be said that the harmony in a tuned lyre is something 
unseen, and incorporeal, and perfectly beautiful, and divine, 
while the lyre and its strings are corporeal, and with the nature 
of bodies, and compounded, and earthly, and akin to the mortal. 
Now suppose that, when the lyre is broken and the strings are 
cut or snapped, a man were to press the same argument that 
you have used, and were to say that the harmony cannot have 
perished, and that it must still exist: for it cannot possibly be 
that the lyre and the strings, with their mortal nature, continue 
to exist, though those strings have been broken, while the 
harmony, which is of the same nature as the divine and the 
immortal, and akin to them, has perished, and perished before 
the mortal lyre. He would say that the harmony itself must still 
exist somewhere, and that the wood and the strings will rot 
away before anything happens to it. And I think, Socrates, 
that you too must be aware that many of us believe the soul 
to be most probably a mixture and harmony of the elements 
by which our body is, as it were, strung and held together, such 
as heat and cold, and dry and wet, and the like, when they are 


mixed together well and in due proportion. Now if the soul is a 
harmony, it is clear that, when the body is relaxed out of porpor- 
tion, or overstrung by disease or other evils, the soul, though 
most divine, must perish at once, like other harmonies of sound 
and of all works of art, while what remains of each body must 
remain for a long time, until it be burnt or rotted away. What 
then shall we say to a man who asserts that the soul, being a 
mixture of the elements of the body, perishes first, at what is 
called death? 1 

In this same dialogue, the Phaedo, Socrates replies that 
the soul cannot be regarded as merely a harmony of the 
body. The soul is dynamic; it rules over and is not simply 
the result or accompaniment of bodily activities. Socrates 
supports his argument by examples of how the soul 
opposes bodily passions and appetites, how it lords it over 
bodily activities, "sometimes severely, and with a painful 
discipline, such as gymnastic and medicine, and sometimes 
lightly/' The soul is not "capable of being led by the 
passions of the body," but is "their lord, being herself far 
too divine a thing to be like a harmony." And on the 
ground that the soul is thus independent of the body, he 
concludes that it is immortal. 

In a considerably later dialogue Plato gives a more 
positive argument for the soul's independence of the body, 
and consequently for its immortality. The speakers are 
Cleinias a Cretan, and an Athenian Stranger. 

Ath. And what is the definition of that which is named 
'soul'? Can we conceive of any other than that which has been 
already given the motion which is self-moved? 

CL You mean to say that the essence which is defined as 
the self-moved is identical with that which we call soul? 

Ath. Yes; and if this is true, do we still maintain that there 
is anything wanting in the proof that the soul is the first origin 
and moving power of all that is, or has been, or will be, and their 

1 Simmias, a Pythagorean, in Plato's Phaedo> Church's tr., 85E-86D. 


contraries, when she has been clearly shown to be the source of 
change and motion in all things? 

Cl. Certainly not; the soul as being the source of motion, 
has been most satisfactorily shown to be the oldest of all things. 

Ath. And is not that motion which takes place in another, 
or by reason of another, but never has any self-moving power 
at all, being in truth the change of an inanimate body, to be 
reckoned in the second degree, or in any lower degree which 
you may prefer? 

CL Very true. 

Ath. Then we are right, and speak the most perfect and 
absolute truth, when we say that the soul is prior to the body, 
and that the body is second and comes afterwards, and is born 
to obey the soul which is the ruler? l 

The actual constitution of the soul is, because of the 
soul's fundamentally social nature, to be found reflected 
(and more readily visible) in the structure of society, 
which Plato supposed to be in this respect an image of 
the individuals composing it. Sometimes Plato speaks 
of the soul as a duality, sometimes as a trinity. The lat- 
ter notion is correlated in the Republic with the threefold 
division of the Athenian city-state into citizenry at large, 
rulers, and militia. Similarly the soul has (i) an appetitive 
principle or 'part/ which proceeds from the nature of the 
body and aims at pleasure, and thus is always fluctuating 
or even desirous of contrary things at the same moment; 
(ii) reason, or a rational 'part/ which reflects on the appe- 
tites and combats them if necessary, which aims at the 
intelligible and true and knows the forms of things 
i.e. can abstract from sensuous particulars and so under- 
stand general relations; (iii) an impulsive nature, a kind 
of spontaneous, creative energy in the soul, the dynamic 
aspect of us, which working with reason gives it power to 
control and redirect the appetites. 

1 Laws, 896A-C, Jowett's first translation. 


These should be regarded not as three separate parts 
of the soul though it is true that Plato sometimes 
speaks as if they were. Their interrelation is shown best 
in another Platonic dialogue, the Symposium, where 
'Love' is the name given to the dynamic inner urge. 
'Love' is there called a god, just as Socrates' private inner 
urge was personified as a 5a/Ko*> or demigod. In the 
generality of men Love associates itself with the ordinary 
appetites, and its object will be tasty food, good looking 
women, wealth, comforts. But these things are, Socrates 
says in Book VII of the Republic^ like the shadows on a 
wall, where we cannot see the real bodies that cast the 
shadows. Thanks to the dynamic character of this inner 
Scujucoj', however, there comes in some persons' lives a 
time when they feel impelled to turn away from super- 
ficial delights and probe more deeply into the reality that 
they suspect lies behind such appearances. When this is 
done they no longer care about the shadows; their 
Soijuwj' leads them towards the intelligible forms. And 
it is noteworthy that Socrates' 5at/xco^ or inner urge 
(deified) was so thoroughly educated to serve the interests 
of reason that it acted always as an 'inner check,' dis- 
suading but never confusing. The importance of the 
Ovfjibs (the word used for the third part of the soul as 
given above, the 'impulsive nature') is seen in the fact 
that it also is called a 5<u/^an>, and that the word for 
happiness ' that which all men desire ' is evdai/jLovia. 
tvdaijjLOvia may be translated in an expanded form as 
'a healthy working of the soul.' The Republic suggests 
that this consists in giving each function and activity its 
due, in having them work together harmoniously under 
the general leadership of reason. 

(4) Aristotle. Aristotle did not accept the Pythagorean- 
Platonic way of regarding the soul as something wholly 
separable from the body and capable of taking up an 


abode in the body. He argued that this doctrine arbi- 
trarily attached a soul to a body without showing how, 
or by virtue of what bodily characteristic, this was possi- 
ble. The association is more intimate, for through it the 
soul acts and the body is acted on, the soul moves and the 
body is moved. We cannot know what kind of a thing a 
soul is without knowing about the body of which it is the 
soul. He concluded that the soul is "the /0m of a nat- 
ural body having a capacity for life." This kind of form 
he called an entelechy^ literally "having the rcXos or 'end' 
within itself"; the soul is the entelechy of the body. 

Through this definition Aristotle avoided any sharp 
dualism between soul and body, between mind and the 
objects known by mind. In sense-perception the sensuous 
faculty of the soul is potentially what the sense-object is 
actually , and in being acted on by the sense-object is made 
similar to it. And just as the sensuous faculty is to sense- 
objects, so is the mind (nous), the intellectual aspect of the 
soul, to though t-of objects. The mind is capable of receiv- 
ing the 'form* of the object of thought, is potentially like 
the form, though not identical with it. But, since the mind 
thinks all things, it must be unmixed with any of them, 
for by intruding its own form the mind would hinder and 
obstruct what is other than it and would not be able to 
think all things. The aspect of the soul called mind, the 
part that thinks and abstracts, therefore, is simply a capac- 
ity ', and has no actuality before it does in fact think. 

From this Aristotle concluded that the mind or nous y 
unlike the sensuous faculty of the soul, ought not to be 
thought of as mixed with the body. It possesses no specific 
quality, like cold or warm, and no organs, as does the sen- 
suous faculty, and again unlike the sensuous faculty, is 
therefore separable from the body. Nevertheless, the 
intellect is not wholly independent of sense, for intelligible 
forms abstract meanings and properties do not have 


an existence independent of sense-objects. " Without per- 
ception a man would neither learn nor understand any- 
thing, and when he thinks, he must think by means of an 
image; and images are like perceptions except that they 
lack material substance." 

(6) St. Thomas Aquinas. The Christian doctrine of 
the soul was summed up for the Middle Ages in the phi- 
losophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. It was based partly on 
the Platonic doctrine, as interpreted by St. Augustine, 
but chiefly on Aristotle, though it was given a rigidity 
which Aristotle might have hesitated to recognize. Con- 
sciousness testifies to the existence and the permanence 
of the soul, to the fact that the soul is, though conscious- 
ness does not make unequivocally clear what the soul is, 
as is suggested by the variety of opinions about its nature. 
The existence of the soul is disclosed through its activi- 
ties; and the soul's permanence through our consciousness 
of personal identity persisting in spite of changes. In 
order to harmonize the unity of the soul with the varied 
character of its functionings (nutrition, movement, sense 
perception, knowledge by abstraction, will) it is inter- 
preted as having various ' faculties/ or specifically human 
intrinsic powers of action. But these have, though 
'natural' to man, in the first place a merely potential 
existence; and it is only through their exercise that the 
faculties and hence the soul itself can become known. 
"The human intellect has within itself the power of 
understanding, but not of being understood except in so 
far as it is in a state of activity." 

As did Aristotle, Aquinas insisted on the intimate union 
of soul and body; the soul was the ' form ' of the body, and 
a man, a human person, was a soul-body. The individual 
body is the principle of differentiation that is, it dif- 
ferentiates one man from another, for, as Aristotle said, 
his soul must be fitted to his body: the fact that he has 


such and such a body determines that he shall have such 
and such a soul. However, for Aquinas the soul is not, 
as with Aristotle, merely the 'actual working* of the 
body, but something created by God and united to the 
embryo when the embryo has reached a stage of develop- 
ment sufficient to characterize it as human. 

Sense-knowledge and sense-desires have their seat in the 
organism which, being material, is extended and divisible 
and therefore perishable. But likewise in the case of 
abstract knowledge, scientific judgment and reasoning, 
willing of the good in general and free choice in particular, 
the soul is still bound to the organism, as is shown by such 
evidence as that a disease may prevent the use of reason 
and thus diminish or destroy freedom. "There is nothing 
in the mind that was not first in the senses; except the 
mind itself." Nevertheless, the soul in essence is not 
dependent upon the body, as is proved by the ability of 
thought to transcend spatio-temporal limitation. 

This ability of the soul demonstrates its spirituality. 
The material for its abstractions is drawn through the 
body, but through them it transcends matter. And being 
spiritual, the soul has no quantitative or material parts; 
it is simple, and the simplicity of the soul means the 
absence of internal composition. Because of its simplicity, 
the soul must be immortal, for only the extended and 
divisible are subject to dissolution and death. The boldy 
is extended and divisible, and therefore dies, but the soul 
has neither of these characteristics. Consequently it 
survives bodily disintegration, and could be annihilated 
only by a direct act of God. 


The philosophy of Rene Descartes (1596-1650) stood 
midway between the medieval conceptions and the modern 


scientific conceptions. It must be understood with refer- 
ence to the procedure of physical science, the foundations 
of which were being laid during Descartes' lifetime and 
which was in fact considerably affected by Descartes 
himself. Like the medieval philosophers Descartes ac- 
cepted the distinction between substance and attributes. 
Substance is that which is permanent and unchanging and 
which 'has' attributes and thus is the essential condition 
of their changing. On the other hand, the need of apply- 
ing mathematical method to the physical world meant 
getting rid of the 'specific natures' with which medieval 
opinion endowed all material objects. The only qualities 
that Descartes allowed to the material world were the 
mathematical qualities of figure, size, and motion, all of 
which could be handled by exact mathematical methods. 
These are summed up under the more general quality of 
extension, which they all imply and which is therefore 
declared to be the essential attribute of matter (cf. 
Chapter VII). This means that if other i.e. non- 
mathematical qualities are to be declared in some 
sense real, and if to be real a quality must inhere in some 
substance, and if these do not inhere in material substance, 
another substance must be postulated in which they can 
(and therefore do) inhere. This other substance is mind, 
whose essential quality is expressed in the activity of 
thinking; and the secondary (non-mathematical) qualities 
can then be explained as some among the ideas that are 
the objects of this thinking. We see, then, the curious 
way in which the very precision with which Descartes 
defined the physical world was partly responsible for his 
arriving at the notion of a mind wholly distinct from it. 
But mind is not merely a repository for qualities that 
do not fit into a precisely defined material world. It has 
a more positive justification as well. Partly, no doubt, 
Descartes was led to establish its independence of body 


by the fact that he accepted orthodox Christian theology, 
with its belief in the immortality of the soul. But that, 
at any rate, was not his main acknowledged justifica- 
tion. He preferred to rest the independence of mind on 
a logical argument. The argument in outline is this. I 
can doubt, if I choose, that the 'presentations' of sense 
really represent what they seem to. For often in dreams 
I have had similar presentations, which turned out later 
to be illusions. But there is one thing I cannot doubt: 
namely my own existence. For the very act of doubting 
anything implies that I exist in order to doubt it. For to 
doubt is to think (cogitare) and since thinking is an attri- 
bute, which therefore requires a substance for it to inhere 
in, there must be a substance whose essence it is to think, 
and which is proved to exist by my ( = its) very act of 
trying to doubt it. Descartes said it this way: "Cogito 
ergo sum." "So that it must, in fine, be maintained, 
all things being maturely and carefully considered, that 
this declaration 'I am,' 'I exist,' is necessarily true each 
time it is expressed by me, or conceived in my mind." 1 

Mind defined as above bears little relation to the 
primitive notion of soul, as something nebulously material 
residing in the body. Only body, for Descartes, has 
spatial extension; mind has no spatial characteristics 
at all; hence it cannot be 'in' anything. It follows 

that there is a vast difference between mind and body, in respect 
that body, from its nature, is always divisible, and that mind is 
entirely indivisible. For in truth, when I consider the mind, 
that is, when I consider myself in so far only as I am a thinking 
being, I can distinguish in myself no parts, but I very clearly 
discern that I am somewhat absolutely one and entire; and 
although the whole mind seems to be united to the whole body, 
yet when a foot, an arm, or any other part is cut off, I am con- 
scious that nothing has been taken from my mind; nor can the 

1 Meditation II. 


faculties of willing, perceiving, conceiving, etc., properly be 
called its parts, for it is the same mind that is exercised all 
entire in willing, in perceiving, and in conceiving, etc. But 
quite the opposite holds in corporeal or extended things; for I 
cannot imagine any one of them how small soever it may be, 
which I cannot easily sunder in thought, and which, therefore, 
I do not know to be divisible. 1 

Still, mind and body are not only separate in essence 
but, as experience unquestionably affirms, closely con- 
nected in fact. Their connection is twofold: (i) epistemo- 
logical: the mind knows the body, and the outer world 
through the body; (ii) dynamic: the mind can to some de- 
gree control the body, and the outer world through it. 

(i) How can a mind, being distinct from body and 
from the material world, have true knowledge of matter? 
This question, which in this form arises for the first time 
only when mind and body have been sharply severed 
from each other, is called the epistemological question. 
Descartes' answer is in terms of a theory known as the 
doctrine of representative perception. The mind, whenever 
it is conscious, has many ideas constantly flitting before it: 
shapes, colors, ideas of number, of persons, etc. Some of 
these ideas are true copies of the characters of the material 
world, others not. How can we know which are which? 
Descartes answers with his criteria of 'clarity and dis- 
tinctness/ Whatever properties I clearly and distinctly 
conceive to be in the world must really be there, for God 
does not deceive; and my mistakes about the physical 
world come from allowing my rational judgment, my clear 
and distinct conceptions, to be smudged by the unchecked 
activity of my will for which I, a free agent, and not 
God, am responsible. Now the mathematical properties 
of bodies are those that I clearly conceive to belong to 
them, therefore they do. Thus the Cartesian view is of 

1 Meditation VI. 


a mind which has as its objects a great variety of presenta- 
tions and ideas, and among these it is able by its powers of 
criticism to separate out those ideas which have to do with 
spatial extension, and by virtue of their 'clarity' which 
to Descartes meant their tractability to scientific pro- 
cedure, to declare that they are true copies of qualities 
in the external material world. 

(ii) But mind is not merely passive. It not only knows, 
it performs. How can this be, if the world of matter runs 
on its own independent mathematical laws? By those 
laws, which Descartes interpreted mechanistically, the 
possible cause of a change in material things must be 
some other material event the imparting of motion 
through the impact of one bit of matter on another. 
Descartes answered: (a) that mind, by willing, cannot 
increase or decrease the total amount of motion in the 
material world but can change its direction; (fc) that the 
way mind acts is through the pineal gland of the brain 
where it is able to affect the 'animal spirits' (believed to be 
a kind of vapor given off by the blood and since vapor- 
ous, not quite so material, apparently, as the rest of the 
body, and therefore not so difficult to affect directly), and 
these animal spirits in turn act on the muscles. 

There is an evident weakness in the above alleged 
relationships between soul and body. From the difficulty 
involved in each relationship there arose after Descartes, 
respectively the two traditions of 'subjective idealism' 
or (better) subjectivism, and materialism. (As we saw in 
Chapter VII, materialism need not imply a matter de- 
fined in the Cartesian way, as something spatially ex- 
tended and not-further-analysable.) (i) Starting with 
the doctrine of representative perception as our basis 
we can become skeptical of our ability ever to know 
whether our perceptions however clear and distinct, 
however geometrical rather than diversely qualitative 


truly represent an outer world. This line of thought was 
taken up by Bishop Berkeley, and influenced the develop- 
ment both of modern idealism and of some forms of 
modern pragmatism, (ii) Again, starting with the ma- 
terial side of Descartes' dualism the extended world of 
matter we can regard mind as so essentially different 
from matter and so irrelevant to the point of view for 
which the strictly geometrical world of Descartes is im- 
portant, that it can be either reduced to a mere epiphe- 
nomenon, dependent on the body but not in turn effective 
in directing the body, or even chased out of the cosmic 
scheme altogether and declared not to * exist.' These two 
developments will be taken up in reversed order in the 
following two sections. Each, it will be seen, is from a 
more naturalistic point of view, a decidedly artificial kind 
of philosophy. 


The scientific motive behind Descartes ' philosophy was 
to get a conception of the physical world in which only 
those elements would be judged physical (Descartes said 
'material') which were explainable in terms of matter in 
motion. With the advance of modern science this motive, 
whatever the faults of its formulation in Descartes' phi- 
losophy, became an important basis of many later philo- 
sophical systems. But Descartes' compromise in the 
interests of man's free will could not be accepted. 
'Amount of motion' as something distinct from direction 
of motion is a concept whose validity becomes dubious 
when motion is recognized to be relative both in direction 
and amount (i.e. velocity) to a chosen standard of refer- 
ence. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries force 
was taken as a more primary concept than motion, and 
force is manifested not only by a change in 'amount' but 
also by a change in the direction of motion. Furthermore, 


the paradoxical naivety of the notion of a pseudo-material 
connection between mind and body through the pineal 
gland, or in any similar fashion, was at once apparent. 
Hence, from the effort to complete the Cartesian purified 
defining of the physical, there arose several ways of deal- 
ing with mind which had, somehow, to be taken into 

(1) Parallelism. The first way is to accept both matter 
and mind as equally 'real' but each as explainable (ade- 
quately and thoroughly explainable) in its own terms. 
Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677) carried this out. Two 
of the axioms on which Spinoza's main work, the Ethics, 
is established are: Axiom 4, "The knowledge of an effect 
depends on and involves the knowledge of cause," and 
Axiom 5, "Things which have nothing in common cannot 
be understood, the one by means of the other . . ."; 
whence Proposition 3 (Book I), "Things which have 
nothing in common cannot be the one the cause of the 
other." It follows that body and mind, being different 
in essence, cannot interact. Physical nature is determined 
strictly by physical laws. Mind is determined strictly 
by mental laws. But since both c extension ' and ' thought/ 
as Spinoza calls them, are necessary expressions of the 
logical order of the Universe (attributes of an absolutely 
infinite God, or Substance) there is an exact one-to-one 
relation, or parallelism, between whatever happens in 
the physical world and what happens among mental phe- 

The purely logical parallelism of Spinoza was put in a 
more concrete, temporal form by his successor Gottfried 
Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716). There are according to 
Leibniz three ways in which to account for an apparent 
case of causality between two events: (i) that one of the 
events acts on the other, (ii) that a third thing acts on 
both, (iii) that the things in which the events occur have 


been originally made so that when the one event occurs 
the other also occurs. To illustrate, he points out three 
ways in which a pair of clocks might be kept always 
synchronous: (i) their mechanisms might be interlocked, 
(ii) there might be an infinitely careful timekeeper who 
watched over them and saw to it that at every moment 
they were exactly synchronized, (iii) there might have 
been an infinitely skillful clockmaker who originally made 
and adjusted the clocks with such precision that, though 
not connected, they stayed always together. Applying 
the analogy to the problem of the relation between body 
and mind we get: (i) interactionism, accepted by Descartes 
in the case of man, (ii) occasionalism, the doctrine held 
by Arnold Geulincx (1625-1669) and Nicolas Malebranche 
(1638-1715), asserting that God is present upon every 
occasion of a bodily or a mental event, producing them 
both in a perfect harmony, (iii) parallelism, according to 
which God is the perfect clockmaker, who has so made 
the world, both mind and matter, that it carries out his 
designs without a hitch. This third view was the one 
accepted by Leibniz. The mind seems to perceive as a 
result of something being done to the body; the body 
seems to move as a result of the mind's desire, decision, 
willing. But actually their harmonious working is the 
result not of causal interaction but of God's originally 
complete foresight in creating the mathematic of the 
double world. 

The trouble with parallelism is first that the mathe- 
matical metaphor is in an important respect misleading 
and second that too much ex post facto rationalizing is 
necessary in order to theoretically establish mind as co- 
extensive with matter. 

(i) The misleadingness of the metaphor is evident, for 
whether we speak of mind and body as parallel or 
synchronous or exactly correlated we are speaking as if 


each were an organization of units, each unit of a certain 
kind in the one organization being always found coupled 
with a unit of a certain kind in the other. But, as the 
comparison (p. 282) between sight as a series of phys- 
ical events and sight as a conscious awareness showed, 
on the mental side it does not seem possible to get any 
such units. Thus, while the physical counterpart of 
pleasure can be broken up into units of blood-pressure, 
of glandular discharge, of muscular activity, etc., the 
pleasures themselves as we enjoy them do not appear as 
merely different combinations of homogeneous mental 
units. They differ from one another in quality , and while 
on analysis we can dissociate some of the differing elements 
in each, no account of the original felt pleasure is even 
approximated by breaking it up into hypothetical un- 
differentiated units. Indeed, it was just because physical 
units alone could be measured accurately and were there- 
fore alone amenable to scientific method that Descartes 
established the psycho-physical dualism in the form we 
have seen. Having established it on these grounds it is 
hard to see how any but a very loose sort of relation could 
hold between the mathematically exact units of which 
neural activity consists and the relatively vague aspects 
into which a conscious experience falls even upon the 
most careful analysis. 

Bergson, in an analysis of the ideas implicit in parallel- 
ism, has brought out this difficulty. He begins by show- 
ing how we come to relate the mind to the brain, and how, 
therefore, if we believe everything in the universe to be 
mathematically calculable, we come to suppose that " the 
brain, from which the action is started, contains the 
equivalent of perception, memory and even thought it- 
self. ..." He goes on: 

There is the idea that all that is required, in order to pass 
from the idealist standpoint of image-presentation to the realist 


standpoint of thing in itself, is to substitute for the pictorial 
presented image that same image reduced to a colourless design 
and to the mathematical relations of its parts to one another. 
Hypnotized, so to speak, by the void which our mental power of 
abstraction is creating, we accept the suggestion that some, I 
know not what, marvellous significance is inherent in the mere 
motion of material points in space, that is to say, in an im- 
poverished perception. . . . 

Lastly, there is the idea that if two wholes are solidary, 
each part of the one is solidary with a definite part of the other. 
And so ... we conclude that to any fraction whatsoever of the 
state of consciousness there corresponds a definite part of the 
cerebral state, and then that one of the two terms can be sub- 
stituted for the other. As though we had the right to extend to 
the detail of the parts, thus supposing them to be related each 
to each, what has only been observed or inferred of the two 
wholes, and so convert a relation of solidarity into a relation of 
equivalent to equivalent! The presence or absence of a screw 
may decide whether or not a machine will work: does it follow 
that each part of the screw corresponds to a particular part of 
the machine, and that the equivalent of the machine is the 
screw ? The relation of the cerebral state to the idea or presenta- 
tion may very well be that of the screw to the machine, that is, 
of the part to the whole. 1 

(ii) Even if the notion of an exact parallelism were not 
misleading and inapplicable to consciousness as we know 
it that is, even if it had some kind of a clear, specifiable 
meaning there would still be some doubt that it is 
factually true. For it declares not only that for every 
mental event there is a corresponding physical event (this 
might be accepted), but also that for every physical 
event there is a corresponding mental event; and this, 
according to ordinary beliefs about the world, seems far 
from likely. It is more usual to suppose that mental 
events occur only when the physical events are of a highly 

1 Mind-Energy^ pp. 252-254. 


organic character involving brain activity in a developed 
animal. If this were true there could be no universal 
parallelism in the way meant by either Spinoza or Leibniz. 
Physical events in the brain would (as Spinoza and 
Leibniz admitted) have to be explained by other physical 
events; but if mental events occurred only with brain 
events and not with physical events of a more elementary 
sort, it would seem necessary to reject parallelism and 
explain mind as a result merely of brain events, for ex 
hypothesi there would be no continuously connected mental 
events to explain it in terms of. 

Leibniz got around both these objections, as he sup- 
posed, by an acceptance of what we should today call 
'unconscious' or 'subconscious* mental events. This was 
accepted as a corollary of his doctrine of 'monads/ The 
monad is a center of force, and all physical motion 
whether organic or inorganic is but its external spatial 
manifestation. Now every monad is 'mental' in the sense 
that it enjoys both perception and desire, though per- 
ception and desire may be unconscious or subconscious. 
To be sure, 'perception' and 'desire' are generally used 
today to mean conscious perception, but there is no point 
in quarrelling about terms. The notion of the subcon- 
scious is of course an extension of usual, immediate expe- 
rience, just as molecules or God or any other explanation, 
scientific or religious, must be. But just as, accepting 
one set of premises, molecules are a necessary extension of 
experience in order to make experience orderly, and the 
same is true of God if we begin with another set of 
premises; so for Leibniz, beginning with the propositions 
(i) that mind is radically different from and so wholly 
independent of matter and hence to be explained in terms 
of mind alone, and (2) that the final explanation must at 
all costs be rationally adequate, the acceptance of the 
reality of the subconscious was inevitable. For we are 


conscious of hearing the ocean but not of hearing each 
wave, yet the noise of the ocean is composed of the 
individual noises made by each wave. Again, we are 
conscious of desiring a pleasurable dinner but not con- 
scious of desiring each element of the dinner that would 
make up its pleasurableness. In either case, therefore, 
the elementary perceptions or desires of which the con- 
scious perception or conscious desire is formed are sub- 

(2) Epiphenomenism. The difficulties of parallelism 
from the point of view of ordinary common sense are 
evident. If it is abandoned and if we still start with the 
notion of a physical world as bequeathed by Descartes, 
it is no longer possible to regard matter and mind as on an 
equal footing. For mind now has the double disadvantage 
already referred to. First, it appears together with, not 
all physical motions, but only such as occur in a certain 
way in the brain. Brain activity must thus be regarded 
as a sine qua non of consciousness, and consciousness as 
a by-product, an accidental result or accompaniment, an 
epiphenomenon of brain activity. The best known ex- 
ponents of this view were several philosopher-scientists 
of half a century ago, like Thomas Huxley, who com- 
bined an acceptance of strict scientific, theoretically 
mechanistic, principles for the physical world with an 
agnostic attitude towards the nature of consciousness and 
towards the relation of consciousness to its physical con- 

Granted that a definite thought, and a definite molecular 
action in the brain, occur simultaneously. . . . They appear 
together but we do not know why. Were our minds and senses 
so expanded, strengthened, and illuminated as to enable us to 
see and feel the very molecules of the brain; were we capable of 
following all their motions, all their groupings, all their electric 
discharges, if such there be; and were we intimately acquainted 


with the corresponding states of thought and feeling, we should 
be as far as ever from the solution of the problem, "How are 
these physical processes connected with the facts of conscious- 
ness?" 1 

Thus, while consciousness is a secondary phenomenon and 
while the fact of its appearance is conditioned and explained 
by a certain kind of brain activity, its character is essen- 
tially different from physical data; it is not composed of 
commensurate units; and so from a scientific point of 
view it is something mysterious, unexplainable and even 

(3) Pure materialism. From denying the causal effi- 
cacy of consciousness it is only one further step to evading 
the problems that arise about it by denying its exist- 
ence, identifying it with the cerebral processes that have 
been accepted as its physical cause. We saw in Chapter VI 
the dangerous frequency with which writers untrained 
in metaphysical reasoning confuse the two relations of 
cause and identity. An example of this pertaining to our 
present problem is found in such a statement as the 

What is a state of consciousness? The untrained mind will, of 
course, immediately hypostatize it, and call it a thing. Let us, 
however, call it a process, and instead of regarding it as a thing 
and shadowy accompaniment of certain cerebral processes, let us 
boldly identify it with those processes, and say that it is one and 
the same. Immediately all difficulties vanish. You affirm that 
you move your arm by an act of will; I affirm that you move it 
by a cerebral process. We are both right; for the act of will is 
the cerebral process itself. 2 

It is possible to agree with Elliot about regarding the 
mind as a process rather than a thing, without nevertheless 

1 Tyndall, Fragments of Science, p. 420. 

2 Hugh Elliot, Modern Science and Materialism^ p. 122.' 


identifying it with a cerebral process. For Elliot makes 
quite clear that by a cerebral process he means definitely 
localized physical movements in the head, which, "if 
reduced to their last chemical analysis, would be resolved, 
like all other chemical processes, into the motion of 
atoms." One further passage will indicate just what sort 
of picture-thinking Elliot is indulging in when he thus 
reduces consciousness: 

This transmission [of motion through the brain and other 
parts of the human nervous system] may be compared to the 
passage of an impulse down a line of billiard-balls in contact 
with one another. If we strike the ball at one end of the line in 
the direction of the centre of the adjacent ball, the impulse will 
be conveyed down the line till it reaches the ball at the remote 
end. . . . Comparing the balls now to the physiological units 
of a nerve, we see that the process is analogous in the two in- 
stances. In both cases, a stimulus delivered at one end sets up a 
wave which travels down the line and delivers its effects at the 
remote end. 1 

(4) Behaviorism. Behaviorism is a special form of 
materialism derived from the technique adopted in modern 
laboratory psychology for certain types of problems. Its 
most widely known exponent in this country has been 
John B. Watson, whose doctrine is expounded best in his 
book Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist. 
Watson makes clear at the outset that he is not accepting 
the epiphenomenist's compromise. In his exposition, 

the reader will find no discussion of consciousness and no 
reference to such terms as sensation, perception, attention, will, 
image and the like. These terms are in good repute, but I have 
found that I can get along without them both in carrying out 
investigations and in presenting psychology as a system to my 
students. I frankly do not know what they mean, nor do I 
believe that anyone else can use them consistently, 2 

1 Hugh Elliot, Modern Science and Materialism^ p. in. 

Watson, op. cit.> p. xii. 


On the other hand, being more interested in the appli- 
cability of his theories to actual experimentation than 
in purely theoretic dissociation of subject-matter into 
supposedly ultimate units, he does not concern himself, 
except by one or two passing references, with the billiard- 
ball ideology of a writer like Hugh Elliot, based on a 
methodology drawn from physics rather than psychology. 
Watson makes frequent reference to physiology and cer- 
tain branches of medicine, but seldom to physics or phys- 
ical chemistry. 

The problem of the behaviorist, then, is distinct from 
that of the introspectionist on the one hand and of the 
physicist and chemist on the other. 

Behavioristic psychology attempts to formulate, through 
systematic observation and experiment, the generalizations, 
laws and principles which underly man's behavior. When a 
human being acts does something with arms, legs or vocal 
cords there must be an invariable group of antecedents 
serving as a * cause 'of the act. For this group of antecedents 
the term situation or stimulus is a convenient term. When an 
individual is placed face to face with some situation a fire, a 
menacing animal or human, a change in fortune he will do 
something, even if he only stands still or faints. Psychology is 
thus confronted immediately with two problems the one of 
predicting the probable causal situation or stimulus giving rise 
to the response; the other, given the situation, of predicting 
the probable response. 1 

'Stimulus' is used to mean a group of physical events 
rays of light, gaseous particles affecting the membrane 
of the nose, radiant stimuli calling out temperature re- 
sponse, movements of muscles and activity in the glands, 
etc.; 'situation* is spoken of when the factors are more 
complex, as in the social world. The first type of problem, 
predicting the probable situation giving rise to a response, 

i Ibid., p. 5. 


might ask why men go to war or leave their wives or 
elect stupid public officials; the second type, predicting 
the response when the situation is given, might ask what 
effect on individuals a change of government might have, 
whether a man would do better or worse work if called 
down by his employer, etc. 

If 'stimulus' and 'situation' are nothing more than 
organizations of physical events the same is true of their 
sought-for effects on human individuals. The effects are 
sought only in terms of physical behavior. A man may 
be regarded as always 'behaving' in some way or other, 
overtly or implicitly. When a man is not overtly acting, 
when he is sitting still and 'just thinking' he is really 
as active as if, to use Watson's analogy, he were playing 
tennis. But the activity is in the muscles associated with 
speech: chiefly the laryngeal and tongue muscles. "Im- 
plicit language habits," well or ill carried on according to 
past training, they finally issue in overt action. Accord- 
ingly while the behaviorist may unguardedly speak of 
'emotions' or 'thinking' he is professionally committed to 
using these words in a strictly technical sense, meaning 
special organizations of physical activities in special parts 
of the body. "An emotion," for instance, "is an heredi- 
tary 'pattern-reaction' involving profound changes of the 
bodily mechanism as a whole, but particularly of the vis- 
ceral and glandular systems." "The term thinking ought 
to be made to cover generally all implicit language activity 
and other activity substitutable for language activity." 1 

A good deal of the discussion aroused by the word 
' behaviorism ' and the supposed consequences of the doc- 
trine is confused ^and futile owing to a grave ambiguity in 
the word. It stands both for a method and for a meta- 
physic. Let us examine both these aspects. 

(i) Behavioristic method. So far as the word 'behavior- 

1 Watson, ibid., pp. 225, 356. 


ism* stands for a method it is a scientific method, capable 
of dealing therefore only with scientific problems, that is, 
with relations between physical events. We have seen in 
the above quotations that Watson admits this. Since 
this is so, it is evident that there is an important sense 
in which consciousness does not 'exist' for behaviorism. 
It does not exist for the problem posited by behavioristic 
psychology. This is, as a matter of fact, a somewhat 
colloquial use of 'exist/ as when a man says "Women 
don't exist for me," meaning, thereby, as a rule, that he 
is not interested in them. It would be more literal to say 
that for the psychologist's problem as Watson has defined 
it, all facts of experience save purely physical ones are 
irrelevant^ irrelevant because the problem does not ask 
about them. Indeed, many physical facts are likewise 
irrelevant to it molecular movement, the equations of 
relativity physics, the succession of geological strata 
though, doubtless because Watson was long ago 'con- 
ditioned' to have a respect for physical sciences, he does 
not call these 'unreal.' That many facts should be irrele- 
vant to ('unreal' for) a problem is not surprising: unless 
the scope of a problem were limited it would be no prob- 
lem at all but only an emotionally rhetorical question 
such as "What is Life all about?" or "What does It All 
mean?" To many problems, even scientific problems, 
about human beings, a behavioristic analysis is irrelevant. 
For example, How long would it take a man leaping from 
the top of the Empire State Building to reach the ground? 
would be a question purely for physics. Behavioristic 
psychology might ask the question, What events had 
happened that might serve as an 'explanation* of the 
man's behavior in so leaping? Beyond either of these 
problems there are many more that might be asked but 
that would not fall within the province of either physics 
or behavioristic psychology: e.g. What was the man think- 


ing about when he leapt? Or again, Did he or did he not 
by leaping evade an obligation to support or protect his 
family? These problems are irrelevant to the behavior- 
ist's problem, and so answers to these problems must be 
'unreal' from the point of view of his problem. It is of 
course permissible for the behaviorist to restrict his 
problem in this way. It may even be permissible to 
enlarge the traditional notion of 'psychology' in order to 
classify behavioristic method as a branch of it. But it is 
manifestly absurd to forget the extremely technical char- 
acter of a science which limits itself to observing, experi- 
menting on, and generalizing the relations among purely 
physical events, whether they occur in the brain, larynx, 
viscera, muscles, or external world. 

The behaviorist argues that his method is superior to 
other methods of dealing with human beings because it 
achieves objective ( = public) verification and control over 
the subject-matter. "' States of consciousness ' . . . are 
not objectively verifiable and for that reason can never 
become data for science." In limiting his subject-matter 
to data that are public and controllable the behaviorist 
does indeed pursue the prevailing trend in modern science. 
It follows then, if we accept the modern definition of 
science, that the behaviorist is more strictly a scientist, 
a ' better' scientist, than psychologists of other schools. 
For while conscious states are somewhat sharable, some- 
what controllable, they lack the quality that makes 
physical activities publicly verifiable and controllable to 
the highest degree the quality, namely, of amenability 
to mathematics. But it does not follow that the behavior- 
ist's method is a better way of dealing with human beings, 
for it may be seriously doubted whether dominant human 
problems can be dealt with by scientific method. Take an 
example already referred to, which is used by Watson: 
If a man is doing his job poorly what effect on his work, 


the behaviorist might ask, would a reprimand have? The 
way he works is a publicly observable side of him, and 
whether he works better or worse after the reprimand is 
something which, given a standard of 'good work,' any 
interested observer can find out. But how will he feel 
when reprimanded? That is something which only he 
can know at all adequately, and which we as observers 
can only guess; indeed, even he may be partly deceived 
about his own feelings. Feelings, desires, thoughts these 
are not describable with the mathematical accuracy with 
which, given adequate instruments, an electrical stimulus 
or a tongue vibration or a muscular effort or a visceral 
discharge is measurable. If we begin, therefore, with the 
postulate that our results must have mathematical ac- 
curacy it follows inevitably that we must in the end leave 
feelings, desires, and thoughts out of our calculations. 
But leaving them out does not prevent their constituting 
extremely important problems of their own. 

As for control, suppose that someone were undergoing 
an emergency operation for appendicitis, without an 
anesthetic. He knows, and any friends of his who may be 
watching his muscular contortions and listening to his 
groans know how much he is suffering. But the surgeon 
who is operating does not think of the suffering. If he 
did he would feel compassion, his hands would tremble, 
and he would doubtless cut in the wrong places. At such 
a moment he must be a strict behaviorist, and for him the 
contortions and groans are but symptoms of some bodily 
condition to be corrected. But why, if that were all, 
correct? Why should one bodily condition be better or 
worse than another? We might answer in terms of physi- 
cal efficiency and the ability to perform work, but even if 
the patient were conclusively dying we should still feel 
constrained to relieve his suffering so far as we were able; 
and, from an individual's own standpoint, the most per- 


feet (objectively verifiable) efficiency would hardly be 
acceptable if it were accompanied by continuous pain. 
Or do we aid another person because his contortions and 
groans trouble us? Hardly, for we could avoid that by 
stuffing his mouth and tying his wrists, or most effectively 
by shooting him. The bare, unqualified motions of viscera 
are not what the sufferer and we desire so earnestly to 
escape. Our interest in the unseen mathematics of the 
neural and glandular systems, which we know only by 
hearsay and diagrams, is at best technical. What we 
desire to escape is the pain and suffering and discomfort, 
themselves not movements but perhaps caused by and 
causing movements, something not measurable, not wholly 
controllable and public, yet incontrovertibly real. 

(ii) Behavioristic metaphysics. In examining the be- 
haviorist's method we have already by implication touched 
on his metaphysic. In evaluating his method with refer- 
ence to experience as a whole, as he does in denying 
consciousness to exist in any sense at all, he is making a 
metaphysical judgment. That Watson is not even consist- 
ent in his metaphysical judgments is evident from the 
following passages from another of his books, The Ways 
of Behaviorism. 

Thought then is a form of general bodily activity just as 
simple (or just as complex) as tennis playing. The only differ- 
ence is that we use the muscles of our throat, larynx, and chest 
instead of the muscles of our arms, legs, and trunk. 1 

But elsewhere in the same book thought is described as 
something very different from movement, something that 
can know movements and devise explanations for them: 

The 'will/ the 'intellect/ 'pure reason/ they never had a 
chance: they are kept busy finding specious 'explanations' for 
the ways our guts make us behave. 2 

1 p. 84. p. 60. 


Such inconsistencies are not accidental, and are the 
price one pays for disregarding the Principle of Significant 
Assertion. To say, "Thought is bodily activity of the 
muscles of larynx and chest " is merely to use the word 
'thought* in an unaccustomed way; not to answer any 
of the problems about thought as we are conscious of it. 
And if consciousness is declared not to exist, then since 
consciousness must have some meaning in order to be 
used in a significant statement, we must (if we are saying 
anything at all) be using the word 'exist' in a restricted 
sense exist for the behaviorisms problem, or exist in the 
public space-and-time world so that from the class of 
' things that exist ' consciousness is excluded by the manner 
of defining 'existence/ 

A curious, apparently unwitting substantiation of the 
distinction is given by an experiment performed by Dr. K. 
S. Lashley. Dr. Lashley is himself a behaviorist and much 
referred to by Watson, who quotes this experiment and 
supposes it to illustrate and confirm his own standpoint. 
Lashley constructed a delicate apparatus for recording 
tongue movements in two dimensions. These produced 
on a smoked drum certain tracings when the patient 
whispered a sentence. The patient was then told to think 
the same thing without 'overt movements/ that is, without 
making sounds. This produced a markedly similar trac- 
ing, differing only in amplitude. But if after whispering 
the sentence the patient was given other work to do and 
later asked to think the sentence, there was no apparent 
resemblance between the two tracings. "This," Watson 
comments, "is not an argument against our point if we 
recall how varied is the nomenclature of the larynx and 
the throat. We can write the same word by a dozen 
different combinations in the holding of the pen. We 
can speak or think the same word by many different 
combinations." But what, we might ask, is meant by 


'the same word'? What was the patient told to do when 
he was told to 'think the same sentence'? If thinking is 
physical movement he did not do as he was told, for the 
observable movements were admittedly different. Yet 
Watson admits the patient was thinking the same words, 
though by different actual movement combinations. 
How, in terms of Watson's metaphysic, could the words 
be the same yet different? While Watson gives no clear 
reply, his position, to judge from various passages, seems 
to be that for two different larynx-tongue-chest move- 
ments to 'mean the same thing' is for them to eventuate 
in the two groups of responses which, considered as 
wholes, shall be identical. But what evidence is there 
that on two occasions when a patient is told to 'think 
the same thing' the two resultant totalities of organized 
responses will be identical? Not only is there no evidence 
that they will; we know that they will not, for in the 
experiment at least one of the responses was admittedly 
dissimilar in the two cases. And while a delicate instru- 
ment is needed to detect the dissimilarity of tongue 
vibrations, ordinary experience is enough to establish 
dissimilarities of a more striking and overt sort. The 
behaviorisms only recourse is then to declare that the 
patient could not have been thinking the same thing, 
because thinking (or the 'meaning' of thinking) is the 
total set of responses, and these total sets do differ. 
But this, obviously, is sheer question-begging, and de- 
prives the phrase ' to think the same thing ' of all specifi- 
able meaning. 


We have seen that to deny the existence of conscious- 
ness is possible only by a kind of scientific metaphor 
limiting the meaning of 'existence'; complete denial re- 
duces to a meaningless statement. And on the other 


hand, there are grave difficulties in trying to express a 
relation between the brain and the consciousness which 
appears to depend on the brain's functioning. Epiphe- 
nomenism traduces, in the interests of an unverifiably air- 
tight mechanism, the directly palpable fact of experience 
that our feelings, thoughts, decisions do somehow effect 
changes in the physical world. Interactionism affirms a 
causal interrelationship of mind and body, which contra- 
dicts the more confined causal postulate on which science 
bases its definition of, and dealings with, the physical 
world. Parallelism affirms a strictness and minuteness 
of relation between mind and body that the very defini- 
tion of mind, as contradistinguished from body, makes 
meaningless. And all three of these doctrines err alike 
by committing what might be called a fallacy of re- 
dundancy. They are obliged to count some aspects of 
things twice over. The blue-green of the sea need be 
counted only once since it is merely a 'mental' not a 
'physical' quality. But the size and calculable motion 
of the sea are at once something that has membership 
in the physical world and also, so far as it becomes an ob- 
ject of knowledge, in the mind. There is, to be sure, no 
a priori reason why the mind should not be a reflector, 
casting an image, variously distorted, of the mathematical 
qualities that make up a physical world and lending in 
the process of reflection enough of its own nature to give the 
reflected objects their qualitative appearances. This is the 
view, stemming from Descartes, that is called the doctrine 
of representative perception. The simile of reflector is not 
capricious; it is really the image on which the appeal of 
such doctrines, if we analyze it, is based. A mirror if 
tinted and bent will supply original colors and shapes to the 
figures it reflects; why cannot the mind be like this, 
though rich enough to supply many other qualities of 
sound, feeling, goodness and beauty as well? The analogy 


is persuasive until it is recognized to be faulty in one 
essential respect. The mirrored image and its corporeal 
prototype are both things we can directly perceive. We 
can visually recognize them as two distinct entities, we can 
visually compare them and so determine what qualities 
are present in the original and what qualities are both 
added (the new tint, the new shape) and taken away 
(the old color and shape, and the touchableness) by the 
mirror. But in the supposed relation of an unperceived 
thing-in-itself to the perception we have 'of it* there is no 
such possibility of comparison. By hypothesis the sup- 
posed original is perceptible only through its representa- 
tive in the observer's mind. Whence it is logically 
impossible that the observer should ever be able to verify 
correspondences and dissimilarities between copy and 
original, or even that the original exists. Its existence and 
the likeness to it of the perceived image can never be 
more than a matter of faith. 

George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne (1685-1753) saw 
the point of this objection, and preferring, as a bishop, to 
conserve his faith for more spiritual matters he denied 
that the physical world, as distinct from ideas of it, can 
exist. Though the position seems paradoxical it was a 
logical outcome of the artificial distinction between ma- 
terial objects and mental states that Descartes' analysis 
had imposed. Once the distinction is hypostatized the 
question of how mind can know what kind of thing lies 
across the chasm can be answered only by faith (in the 
impossibility of God's deceiving us: Descartes) or by 
agnosticism (Berkeley). And agnosticism toward such a 
question as this, since the very nature of the question 
made a verifiable answer impossible, was, Berkeley de- 
clared, equivalent to a denial that matter exists. 

20. In short, if there were external bodies, it is impossible 
we should ever come to know it; and if there were not, we might 


have the very same reasons to think there were that we have now. 
Suppose what no one can deny possible an intelligence 
without the help of external bodies, to be affected with the 
same train of sensations or ideas that you are, imprinted in the 
same order and with like vividness in his mind. I ask whether 
that intelligence hath not all the reason to believe the existence 
of corporeal substances, represented by his ideas, and exciting 
them in his mind, that you can possibly have for believing the 
same thing? Of this there can be no question which one 
consideration were enough to make any reasonable person sus- 
pect the strength of whatever arguments he may think himself 
to have, for the existence of bodies without the mind. 

24. ... It is very obvious, upon the least inquiry into our 
thoughts, to know whether it is possible for us to understand 
what is meant by the absolute existence of sensible objects in 
themselves, or without the mind. To me it is evident those words 
mark out either a direct contradiction, or else nothing at all. 
And to convince others of this, I know no readier or fairer way 
than to entreat they would calmly attend to their own thoughts; 
and if by this attention the emptiness or repugnancy of those 
expressions does appear, surely nothing more is requisite for the 
conviction. It is on this therefore that I insist, to wit, that the 
absolute existence of unthinking things are words without a 
meaning, or which include a contradiction. 1 

This conclusion does not contravene the postulates of 
science or the fair degree of order in the common-sense 
world out of which such postulates are derived. Such 
order is merely transferred. Its seat is in ideas, not in 
things-in-themselves. And since ideas as you or I (finite 
individuals) get them are not entirely orderly, Berkeley 
distinguishes between their orderly aspects (ideas of Sense, 
which "are more strong, lively, and distinct than those of 
the imagination; they have likewise a steadiness, order, 
and coherence, and are not excited at random, as those 
which are the effects of human wills often are, but in a 

1 A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. 


regular train or series, the admirable connection whereof 
sufficiently testifies the wisdom and benevolence of its 
Author." 30.) and the varia (described as ideas de- 
pendent on my own will). The 'laws of nature* Berkeley 
accepts but changes their essential reference; we learn 
them by experience, that is to say by attending to our 
ideas; they express merely "that such and such ideas 
are attended with such and such other ideas, in the ordi- 
nary course of things." 

(6) Psychoanalysis. The various contemporary meth- 
ods and doctrines known loosely as psychoanalysis and 
associated chiefly with Freud and Jung may be thought 
of as a modern development of subjectivism. Psycho- 
analysis, however, is not as a rule expanded into a uni- 
versal metaphysic. The problem of psychoanalysis is not 
the relation of mind to the physical world, though it does 
include the relation of human mind to human body. 
Psychoanalysis begins in a technique, allied to the 'con- 
fessional' of many religions, for dealing with the human 
personality, particularly with pathological mental con- 
ditions. The emphasis is not, as with the behaviorists, 
on the overt activity of the organism, but on introspec- 
tion; the technique is organized to aid the mind in knowing 
more completely itself, and bodily behavior is inter- 
preted as an external expression of mental complexities. 
Freud begins by noticing that the mind or personality can 
hardly be summed up by the ideas we happen to be con- 
sciously aware of. At any one time the field of our con- 
sciousness is obviously much restricted compared with 
what it might potentially include, the countless remem- 
bered past experiences we might become aware of if the 
situation called for it. This latent, potential aspect of our 
mental life Freud calls the preconsdous. But to the con- 
scious and the preconscious Freud adds his distinctive 
contribution, the notion of the unconscious. We are^not, 


under ordinary circumstances, even potentially aware of 
the ideas and mental processes in the unconscious, because 
they are in a state of repression^ held back by a force or 
resistance which is called the censor. Nevertheless, though 
we are not aware of them, the mental processes of the 
unconscious produce on our minds all the effects of con- 
scious ideas; they are in fact the basis of our personality 
and character, of our self. Freud believes that the 
existence of the unconscious is proved by the psycho- 
analysts* successful treatment of pathological conditions. 
The makeup of the unconscious is largely determined 
during infancy and early childhood (according to Jung 
it is partly inherited, is in fact partly a 'collective uncon- 
scious' shared by the whole human race), when for various 
reasons certain unwelcome ideas and emotions are forced 
back into the unconscious and kept there by the censor. 
From then on they manifest themselves indirectly in the 
content of our dreams, our nervous and emotional peculi- 
arities and phobias, habits of thought, 'complexes/ 
aphasia, amnesia, sometimes in a type of paralysis known 
as hysteria, etc. But through the psychoanalytic tech- 
nique, which consists chiefly of the interpretation of 
dream 'symbols/ hypnosis, and winning the patient to 
habits of lengthy uncontrolled introspection, the censor 
occasionally lets down the bars. When this happens, 
the idea is brought from the unconscious into the con- 
scious; and when it enters the conscious, when, that is, 
we become aware of what was formerly repressed, the 
pathological symptoms disappear. 

The doctrinal aspect of psychoanalysis has been sub- 
jected to considerable criticism, from the behaviorists, 
but further from many scientists and philosophers, par- 
ticularly from those who accept materialistic postulates. 
The criticism centers in an attack on the 'existence' of the 
unconscious; how, it is asked, can we know that an 


unconscious mind exists when the only ideas and mental 
processes we know are those we are conscious of? This 
criticism, however, rests partly on an ambiguity in the 
verb 'know.' In a more restricted sense, where 'know* 
means be more or less directly conscious of, we clearly 
know nothing about the unconscious, and it is meaningless 
to talk of ideas existing in it. But every ideology, through 
inferences of various indirect kinds, extends immediate 
consciousness. The unconscious is, it is true, an ideology, 
but it is an ideology that seems to throw, within limits, 
light on what we mean by mind and personality and char- 
acter. To demonstrate this it is not necessary to adduce 
the therapeutic achievements of pychoanalysts, many of 
which are questionable; the conceptions of psychoanaly- 
sis have filtered through to people generally, and though 
they are often distorted, familiar experience daily shows 
their application to the knowledge of ourselves and those 
around us. The use of psychoanalysis made by some of 
the most brilliant novelists of this century is well known 
and convincing. The unconscious has no place in the 
space-and-time world of the behaviorists, but it is quite 
proper to speak of its existence with reference to the very 
real problems it is related to, if we understand clearly what 
we are saying. 


Berkeley's theological conclusions are not so acceptable, 
today, but they are an important reminder that the Car- 
tesian dualism can fall into absurdity on either side. 
Berkeleianism is less absurd than materialism because 
it does not need to leave things out it need merely 
reorient. But Berkeley's reorientation is too stilted and 
unalluring, pointing the way, once God is dropped out, 
to solipsism. The same reasoning that gets rid of the 
external material things-in-themselves, carried further, 


denies every sort of objectivity, not only to matter, but 
to God, other persons, and anything else as well, and 
leaves us in the end only the bare consciousness at this 
present moment as real. 

Once the original hypostasis of the mind-matter dis- 
tinction is accepted, it is hard to see how, if we are 
consistent, one or the other extreme, materialistic or 
subjectivistic, can be avoided. There is a therefore com- 
mendable tendency recently to reject the original hyposta- 
sis. This tendency may be discovered even within the 
physical sciences. Physicists and astronomers, such as 
Eddington and Jeans, noticing that the concepts of rela- 
tivity physics and the quantum theory have lost some- 
thing of the hard and fast character physical concepts 
had in Descartes' time, are trying to close in the gap 
between mind and matter with the aid of the tensor 
calculus and Hamiltonian functions. This, however, leads 
nowhere: there is still a dualism between what scientific 
method can deal with and what it cannot and strictly 
speaking does not try to. And there will always be such a 
dualism, for science can remain mathematically definite 
only at the cost of disregarding the mathematically indefi- 
nite. The problem of redintegration is not a scientific 
but a philosophical one. And the preliminary to its solu- 
tion is, granted the dualism, to keep it methodological 
and to refuse to hypostatize it into an ultimate bifurcation 
of reality. 

The traditional gulf between physical and psychological 
research, accordingly, exists only for the habitual stereotyped 
method of observation. A color is a physical object as long as 
we consider its dependence upon its luminous source, upon 
other colors, upon heat, upon space, and so forth. Regarding, 
however, its dependence upon the retina it becomes a psy- 
chological object, a sensation. Not the subject, but the direc- 
tion of our investigation, is different in the two domains. 1 
1 Ernst Mach, Contributions to the Analysis of Sensations , pp. 14-15. 


o<4 JLJTUL onjL,r 

Another expression of this same type of solution may be 
found in the following quotations from the psychologist, 
Wolfaanor Kohler. 

1UUI1U. HI tUC l\Jli\J 

Wolfgang Kohler. 

But how can I say that a 'chair/ for example, is an* objective 
experience* if I must admit that it depends upon certain proc- 
esses in my organism? Does not the chair become 'subjective' 
then? It does and it does not. At this very moment the mean- 
ing of our terms has changed. In the last paragraphs 'objec- 
tive* has denoted a certain experienced property which some 
parts of my direct experience, in contrast to other experiences, 
possess as such (exactly as they have size, color, hardness, and 
so forth); the term 'subjective* in this paragraph means their 
genetic dependence upon my physical organism. ' Subjectivity,' 
in this latter meaning, is not itself a directly experienced 
property, but a relationship which we ascribe to 'objective* 
experiences after we have learnt to regard them as the outcome 
of organic processes and, therefore, as distinct from the physical 
reality external to the physical organism. . . . The simple 
truth is that some of the experiences depending upon processes 
in my physical organism have the character of 'objectivity,' 
whereas others, depending upon other processes in the same 
organism, have a 'subjective* character, this contrast being 
something altogether indifferent to the genetic 'subjectivity* of 
both types of processes and experiences, as depending upon the 
physical organism. After this, I hope that no misunderstanding 
of the term 'objective experience* will be possible. When I 
talk about ' a chair,' the chair of my everyday life is meant and 
not some 'subjective phenomenon* to be observed perhaps by 
highly trained introspectionists, but utterly unknown to me. 

On the other hand, we have seen that we cannot identify the 
chair of 'objective experience* with the chair as a part of the 
physicist's world. Under these circumstances, the world of 
direct experience being the first I had, and since all that I 
know about the physical world being inferred later on from the 
properties of the experienced world, how can I deny this ex- 
perienced world which, for me, is the only basis upon which I 
can continue to guess about physical realities? No one can 


prevent me from thinking, if I choose, that after all the physical 
world may be the more important and more essential one. But 
even then I must confess that the other world has existed first 
and always/or me^ and that I still can see no other way of dis- 
covering the properties of physical reality but by observing 
'objective experiences' and drawing my conclusions about the 
physical world from them. With future progress of physiology 
I may become able to discover even the nervous processes under- 
lying my 'observing* and 'guessing* and so be able to give a 
physical theory of these events. But even then, since the world 
of physiology is part of the physical world and as such is not 
directly accessible to me, any progress whatever along this line 
will depend upon my observing what I call a body or a nervous 
system as parts of 'direct experience.' l 

We may conclude with some degree of assurance that 
it is unwise to either reason away the notion of mind or 
divorce it completely from matter. And this conclusion 
will help to give some positive content to what we mean 
by our selves. It would be foolish to try to make too 
exact an analysis, or to suppose that any analysis would be 
at all exhaustive. We may, however, as a tentative begin- 
ning, review certain prominent characteristics of a self 
or a person. 

(1) Awareness of objects. A self is aware of various 
differentiated objects. These objects need not be 'spa- 
tial'; they include not merely the spatially arranged 
physical world, but as well the meanings found in social 
intercourse, mathematics, art, religion, etc. Moreover, 
the awareness of objects does not mean that the objects 
are something quite apart from self. Theoretically I can 
regard anything intelligible as an object; and also, if 
occasion arises, from another point of view as part of 
'me/ This is clearly seen in the case of my own body, and 
of ideas that 'just come to me/ My body is usually part 

1 Gestalt Psychology 9 pp. 24-26. 


of the me that is aware; but at other times, when for in- 
stance I might examine a splinter in one of my fingers, 
it becomes partially at least an object of which I am aware. 
(2) Self-consciousness. Self-consciousness does not 
mean a consciousness of self as a logical abstraction wholly 
separate from everything else. If we try by introspection 
to search out a static, unchanging 'me/ we are sure to be 
disappointed, as (i) suggests. Self-knowledge comes 
through the knowledge of what is not-self; we know our- 
selves through the objects of which we are aware, just as 
we recognize objects through their relation to ourselves. 
This is part of what Aristotle and Aquinas meant by 
saying that "The human intellect has within itself the 
power of understanding, but not of being understood ex- 
cept in so far as it is in a state of activity." And more 
positively I am, by memory, conscious of myself as en- 
during through time. 

To retain what no longer is, to anticipate what as yet is not, 
these are the primary functions of consciousness. For 
consciousness there is no present, if the present be a mathe- 
matical instant. An instant is the purely theoretical limit 
which separates the past from the future. It may, in the strict 
sense, be conceived, it is never perceived. When we think we 
have seized hold of it, it is already far away. What we actually 
perceive is a certain span of duration composed of two parts 
our immediate past and our imminent future: leaning and bend- 
ing forward is the characteristic attitude of a conscious being. 1 

In me, what I have been, what I am, and what I shall 
be are inextricably linked together in a whole which, 
though made perhaps from elements that are not distinc- 
tively mine, is a unique function of these elements. And 
with this uniqueness there runs through experience, not 
dividing experience into two separated parts but displayed 

1 Bergson, Mind-Energy, pp. 8-9. 


in all experience (except, on some accounts, in the mystic 
and esthetic), the opposition between self and not-self 
resulting in what C. I. Lewis calls "that loneliness which 
is the fate of self-conscious beings." 

(3) Partial self-determination. The traditional free- 
will controversy is made up of many elements, 'Free' is 
misleading, for we must ask, Free from what? Every- 
thing is free from something, nothing from everything. 
The doctrine of free-will, opposed to determinism, seems 
to mean primarily "free from natural law," and is there- 
fore just as emotional a doctrine as we have already seen 
dogmatic materialism to be, though it is a needed reaction 
against dogmatic materialism. t If scientific naturalism 
asserted that all events are under the sway of a rigidly 
determined single set of laws (atomic, electronic or 
whatever they might be), and under a set of laws stated 
definitely enough to make all events of any kind |de- 
ducible from them, the doctrine of free-will might be no 
more than the rejoinder of a man who, exercising his 
freedom and having discernment enough to know in what 
sense he is free (a sense in which atoms play no part), 
protests against an unverified contradiction of a palpable 
fact the fact that he is able, on certain occasions, to 
choose from among two or more alternatives of which he is 

As we have seen, however, scientific naturalism need 
not be monistic; it can accept different methods and 
different realms of discourse even within 'science/ and 
it can remain silent about matters which are not scientific. 
If we take an empirical view of science we can also take 
one of the 'self and its powers. To call the self (or the 
will) 'free' ought not to mean free of matter, of physical 
forces in general. This would look like a special form of 
the Cartesian dualism, or even of Manicheanism, which 
regarded matter as something evil to be risen above. 


But there is no reason or necessity for supposing that 
our activities contradict physical laws and physical 
forces. We can be free only of this or that particu- 
lar physical law or force. And the fact that we are 
still dependent on other forces does not make us pup- 
pets: there is no evidence that the whole universe runs 
like a single interlocked set of cogwheels. The task of a 
person, then, is first to get to know himself well enough 
to find out just what forces (environmental, previously 
contracted habits, chemical changes in the body, etc.) 
are affecting his behavior and to what extent he can get 
free of any particular set of them. To forget that we 
can (sometimes) get free of particular physical influences, 
despairing simply because of the possibility that another 
analysis would show that in getting free of them we are 
influenced by others, is mere bowing to an irrelevant 
ideology. And, second, a person can consider the use 
to which he shall put the partial freedom he is able to 

(4) The integration of self. The use to which freedom 
shall be put, considered together with (2) the knowledge 
of the self as enduring, brings out a further character- 
istic of the self, a moral characteristic, and as such to be 
discussed in the following chapter. For the alternatives 
among which we may choose are not mere indifferent 
isolated particulars; they may be related and subordinated 
to a morejntegrated conception of our self as something 
more than a succession of conscious events. My choice 
now may take its place in a structure which is in some 
sense independent of now, this present moment during 
which I am choosing. Through this integration, I, as a 
self, as more than a sum of discrete events causally in- 
terrelated, am a whole, an organically unified moral being, 
with a unique identity not to be reduced to any mathe- 
matical relations as a person. 


(5) The self as social. I know not only myself but 
other selves as well. It is sometimes argued that we can- 
not know other selves except through a belief, an un- 
reasoned faith. We see other bodies like ours, acting 
somewhat as we do, and infer by analogy the existence of 
other persons. This argument is partly a matter of defini- 
tion: we do not know in others some static logical abstrac- 
tion of a self; but neither do we in ourselves. And in 
any case, whether or not the belief in the existence of other 
persons is fully justified, it is a belief we all share. It is 
also worth noting that only through other persons, whose 
existence is tacitly postulated, do we come to know very 
much about our own selves. The necessities of living 
demand social cooperation; and beyond practical co- 
operation, we have no clear ideas of what we are until 
we observe what other people think of us, until we have 
personal relationships friendship, love, enmity. And 
toward other persons we have feelings not only of de- 
tached interest, as we have in the case of material objects, 
but of insistent moral obligation. If we have some knowl- 
edge of ourselves, and if the development of that knowl- 
edge depends in considerable measure on other persons, 
it is rather arbitrary, after the event, to throw over the 
other persons in the interests of misplaced logical precision. 

These two last characteristics of the self are preemi- 
nently moral characteristics. As such they provide a 
transition to the problems of moral value, which consti- 
tute the subject-matter of the chapter to follow. 




Morality is a subject that interests above all others: 
We fancy the peace of society to be at stake in every de- 
cision concerning it; and 'tis evident, that this concern 
must make our speculations appear more real and solid, 
than where the subject is, in a great measure, indifferent to 
us. What affects us, we conclude, can never be a chimera; 
and as our passion is engag'd on the one side or the other, 
we naturally think that the question lies within human com- 
prehension; which, in other cases of this nature, we are apt 
to entertain some doubt of. David Hume, A Treatise of 
Human Nature, III, i, i. 

These words of Hume are a reminder of the inevitable 
familiarity of moral problems. A man, unless he happens 
to be a physicist or biologist, may ignore as much as he 
pleases the technical problems that occur in those fields. 
But moral problems touch us more closely. At almost 
any time we may be confronted with a situation in which 
a moral choice has to be made; and whoever is conscious 
of being so confronted has no way of wholly escaping 
the situation. To close one's eyes to the situation, to 
maintain a policy of indifference toward it, is in these 
circumstances as much a matter of moral choice as any 
other solution would be, and as capable of being judged 
by moral standards. If a friend in distress appeals to 
me for a loan that it is within my power to give him, my 
decision to ignore the appeal would be no less a moral 
decision than if I performed some positive act such as 



giving him the money or kicking him downstairs. The 
very nature of the situation has given rise to a. forced, i.e., 
not avoidable, issue; since to do nothing about the situa- 
tion is itself one of the important alternatives to which 
the situation has given rise. Forced moral issues of one 
kind or another are frequent in daily life, and their 
frequency testifies to the genuineness of the moral realm 
of discourse. 

It will be observed that the word 'moral' is here used as 
definitive of a moral realm of discourse, not in the more 
particular sense of conforming to this or that moral code. 
Both uses are current and the word suffers a consequent 
ambiguity. (In fact, the word as used colloquially in 
Anglo-Saxon countries has a third and even more special 
meaning: calling someone 'immoral' is often the equiv- 
alent of calling him sexually promiscuous.) The ambi- 
guity need offer no serious difficulty, however, for a 
distinction between the word's two main meanings is easy 
to draw. In the one sense it defines the questions which 
as 'moral philosophers' we are asking, in the other it 
characterizes from some one point of view a set of an- 
swers that may be given to the questions. In the one 
sense it refers to a type of situation in which reflective 
human beings often do as a matter of fact find themselves; 
in the other, to a type of choice that may be made or of 
action involving choice that may be performed, arising 
out of such a situation. When 'moral' is used in the first 
sense its contradictory is 'unmoral' or 'non-moral' rather 
than 'immoral.' Thus we do not call entropy or the 
square root of minus two immoral. We say instead that 
they are non-moral types of meaning: that is, they have 
no essential relation to problems that are characteristically 
moral. They stand outside, therefore, the subject-matter 
of 'moral philosophy,' or, as it is also called, ethics. 

The ethical realm of discourse will be characterized at 


greater length in Section 3. The first thing to recognize, 
however, is that there is such a realm of discourse and 
that to deny its autonomy is to commit another form of 
the fallacy of metaphysical reduction. One meaning that 
helps to define it uniquely is the notion of obligation, ex- 
pressed in the literal usage of the verb 'ought/ 

In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, 
I have always remark'd, that the author proceeds for some 
time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being 
of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; 
when of a sudden I am surpriz'd to find, that instead of the usual 
copulations of propositions, is y and is not, I meet with no 
proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. 
This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last 
consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some 
new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it shou'd be 
observ'd and explained; and at the same time that a reason 
should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how 
this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are 
entirely different from it. 1 

Hume is here affirming the autonomy of the moral 
realm and in his last sentence protesting against the 
attempts that are sometimes made to consider a proposi- 
tion of moral value as merely a corollary of propositions 
of other kinds. 

In studying ethics we must be on guard against inter- 
preting propositions of moral value as logically deducible 
from premises belonging to factual realms of discourse: 
in other words, against committing the fallacy of meta- 
physical reduction with respect to the category of moral 
value. The most frequent form that the fallacy takes 
in the moral realm is a reduction of value-propositions 
to propositions of fact. This type of reduction is easy 
to commit, inasmuch as human activity, to which a prop- 

1 Hume, he. cit. 


osition of moral value must somehow directly or indi- 
rectly refer, is at once a natural fact, capable therefore 
of 'explanation* in terms of any one of several sciences, 
and at the same time a possible subject of evaluation, and 
sometimes of choice. It is in the latter aspects that it fits 
into the moral realm of discourse, as will be more fully 
explained in Section 3; and the autonomy of this moral 
realm is evident from the reflection that whatever 'causes/ 
in terms of one science or another, may be assigned to a 
human act, the act may be evaluated and, when in our 
power to choose, chosen by reference to principles that 
may be not in the least derived from these conditions. 
To avoid confusion it will be best to refer to human 
activity regarded from the standpoint of any of the 
descriptive sciences, as behavior; when regarded from the 
standpoint of the moral judgments that can be made 
about it, as conduct. All conduct is also, from another 
point of view, behavior, but not all behavior can be re- 
garded as conduct, for not all of it is of a sort to which 
moral judgments can be intelligibly applied. The fallacy 
of reduction, applied to the moral realm, takes most 
often the form of interpreting conduct as merely some 
kind of behavior and hence regarding the problems and 
categories of the one as simply makeshift forms of those 
proper to the other. 

But if we must guard against reducing ethics to the 
status of a descriptive science, it is equally important to 
avoid supposing that it can be fruitfully studied with no 
reference to neighboring realms. In declaring the auton- 
omy of a realm of discourse we are not declaring its com- 
plete separation from other realms. Realms of discourse 
do not exist in a logical vacuum: they can have meaning 
only if their terms and propositions are understood against 
a background built from other phases of experience. 
Accordingly, such studies as biology, anthropology, eco- 


nomics, law, and psychology (to name some of the most 
important), though not to be confused with the subject- 
matter of moral philosophy, are decidedly important for 
the moral philosopher to understand and take into account 
as supplying information on which moral choices may be 
more wisely made and moral delusions more aptly escaped. 
We shall next consider, therefore, several of these con- 
tributory fields, both for the positive contributions they 
make to ethical study and in order to clarify the manner 
in which ethics may be declared autonomous with respect 
to each of them. 


(1) The facts of social life. One group of facts which 
can never be wholly irrelevant to any applicable moral 
theory is that found by studying the customs of society. 
Indeed, the very word 'moral' is derived from the Latin 
word moresy meaning customs, and for at least a great 
deal of our thinking in this field morality continues to 
mean adherence to some custom or other. While a 
blanket identification of the two is not admissible philo- 
sophically, yet the custom-basis of morality is too im- 
portant a fact to be lightly dismissed. Everyone of us 
takes his first steps in morality under the guidance and 
constraint of a social nucleus which has energetic prefer- 
ences for making us one kind of person rather than an- 
other. One of the first discoveries of every infant is that 
some things are 'good* and some are 'bad/ that under 
pain of a variety of penalties he must do the good and 
avoid the bad, and that goodness and badness are not 
qualities into which skeptical inquiry is generally tolerated. 
Clearly society has no alternative to enforcing its cus- 
toms or traditions in this fashion. For a number of years 
the growing child will not be able to understand the more 


rational objections that might be offered against putting 
everything he can get his hands on into his mouth or 
playing with matches, against losing his temper and eating 
harmful foods; a little later, against cheating at games 
and playing truant from school. Thus it is largely true, 
as T. H. Green has said, that a man cannot make a con- 
science for himself: that he always needs a society to make 
it for him. 

Among other reasons why he needs a society is the 
fact that even after he has reached years of maturity he 
has innumerable decisions to make about which he has 
neither time to reflect nor opportunity for providing 
himself with necessary information. Consider how useful 
it is to know whom to offer tips, and in what amount 
tips that are allowed for in adjusting scales of wages, 
and are therefore really owed. Anyone who has travelled 
abroad must have got into embarrassing situations through 
not knowing that there many more people than in the 
United States should be tipped. Often the existence of a 
rule, and not the content of it, is what matters. In Eng- 
land traffic keeps to the left, in the United States to the 
right; which custom is in force makes no difference, but 
if there were not one or the other, traffic would soon be 
stopped. Only by having a number of quite conventional 
regulations do we succeed in doing anything or understand- 
ing each other at all, and people who make a fetish of un- 
conventionality enhance the difficulty of most things they 
set out to do. 

In more important matters, an individual rarely has 
the data upon which to decide about the wisdom or folly 
of departing from the rule. Rules concerning the relation 
of the sexes, for example, which appear at first sight un- 
just or meaningless, are seldom without some rationale or 
ground, and the individual who breaks them is likely to 
incur results as unwelcome as they may be unexpected. 


Even the double standard of morality, which at first ap- 
pears to lack any general justification whatever, is closely 
related to the different roles of men and women in pro- 
creation, and their unequal economic status. And the 
socio-economic confusion that would have resulted from 
too casual adultery in most societies that have so far 
flourished is sufficiently evident. 

At the same time, though the greater part of our ac- 
tivities are thus, and justifiably, governed by customs 
which we accept without prolonged criticism, a convic- 
tion of the absoluteness of any particular moral code 
does not often survive an acquaintance with the aston- 
ishing variety of codes discovered as we pass from one 
country to another, from one age to another. There is 
practically no act which has not been morally approved 
somewhere, and morally detested somewhere else. It is a 
great sign of parochialism to suppose that only the things 
sanctioned by custom in, let us say, England during the 
Victorian era are truly 'moral' to realize the moral status 
of at least the early decades of that era one need only think 
of the labor conditions. Every country has a set of customs 
depending upon a vast number of conditions, social, po- 
litical, economic, religious; and the gravity of a breach of 
any of them may range from practically nothing to a degree 
of seriousness for which death is thought the only fitting 
punishment. Consider, for example, taking interest on 
money, and disbelief in God, as these were regarded in 
the Middle Ages, and as they are regarded today in, 
respectively, the United States and Russia. 

In short, it is hard to take seriously a claim to finality 
made for the details of any code, however widely accepted, 
and imposed by whatever authority. The function of any 
such code is to act as an indispensable starting-point in the 
moral life of an individual; its constant value as guide to 
him is one thing, its actual embodiment of a fully rounded, 


intelligible account of the good life, of a tenable system 
of moral values, is quite another. Admitting with Plato 
that goodness in the individual depends upon goodness in 
the state, and with Aristotle that anyone not by nature a 
member of a state is either a beast or a god, it must still be 
kept in mind that there has never been a perfectly good 
state, and that all public opinion of which there is any 
record reveals under philosophical analysis inconsistencies 
and imperfections. We may indeed say that so long as the 
individual remains at the stage of unquestioning accept- 
ance of the standards of his age and place, he has not passed 
beyond custom to morality: though not necessarily im- 
moral, he has yet to reach moral maturity. 

In recent times prehistoric anthropology, the study of 
the customs and civilizations of early man, has offered 
additional evidence for the considerable dependence of 
individual standards on the mores of some social group. 
The more basic moral principles, in support of which we 
now can adduce rational arguments public honesty, 
some kind of restrictions in matters of sex, respect for 
human life and property, etc. appear to have had in 
most cases distinctly wwrational origins. They were ordi- 
narily enforced by, or even identified with, the two very 
important institutions of ritual and taboo. Ritual works 
not by command or prohibition but by forming habits, 
by getting the individual into a rhythmic harmony, both 
bodily and emotional, with the other members of his 
tribe. Various acts, such as dancing, public prayers and 
processions, meaningless except to one for whom they 
have become an habitual social expression, are executed, 
often to music or rhythmic drum beats or shafts and 
cries by the participants, so that the- ritual, by being per- 
formed under conditions that appeal profoundly to the 
emotions, tends at once to develop habits of acting in uni- 
son with one's fellows and to Enforce these habits by a set 


of strong feeling-associations. As ritual thus forms cus- 
toms, taboo, which might be regarded as the negative side 
of primitive morality while ritual is the positive side, is 
a more specific means for preserving them. A taboo is a 
ban, invested with a peculiar and awful sanction, on 
certain kinds of socially prohibited conduct: very often 
on a dishonored member of the tribe, in which case it 
prohibits all contact either with him or with his footsteps 
or shadow; or on some event or locality that is regarded 
as sacred to the activity of spirits. By means of these two 
complementary agencies, ritual and taboo, the customs 
of the tribe become a 'second nature' to each of its 
members. Even to say that the customs were thus 
enforced is likely to be misleading; the ritual and taboo 
were the customs, and it is only at a much later stage of 
civilization that a distinction between the customs and 
their means of enforcement could be clearly made. 

Important as ritual and taboo undoubtedly were in the 
formation of our habitual ways of acting, as causes of the 
types of judgment we make in determining our conduct, 
an understanding of their importance does not force us 
to deny the autonomy of the moral realm of discourse. 
The confusion between the cause of a moral judgment and 
the present content of that judgment is a form of what 
was called in Chapter VI the genetic fallacy. That it is a 
fallacy may readily be seen, for the reference of a moral 
judgment is not to a type of meaning which can be ex- 
haustively defined by historic causes. Furthermore, 
whenever an anthropologist tells us that a moral decision 
we habitually make is based on a tribal taboo whose 
origin may be, from our present standpoint, unsavory, 
we may become critical toward our moral decision. We 
shall be able to judge how much our making of it depends 
on automatic acceptance, and how much it is suited to 
the actual moral situations in which we find ourselves. 


We may then accept the decision in spite of its unsavory 
origin, which need not bother us any more than the 
unsavory origin of truffles, if we happen to like truffles; 
or we may reject it. Thus, far from breaking down ethical 
autonomy, anthropological research has the opposite effect 
since it enables us to become more freely critical toward 
our own ways of thinking. 

(2) The facts of modern science. It is generally agreed 
that modern science has radically changed our way of 
regarding the universe and thus indirectly our way of re- 
garding man's status in it and obligations to it. To a 
living universe one may without absurdity acknowledge 
obligations; to a dead one obligations must appear mean- 
ingless. In the following chapter we shall consider on 
its own merits the scientific world-view and whether the 
evidences drawn from the sciences are sufficient to justify 
it. At this point, since it is the moral realm we are con- 
sidering, we must recognize that even if the scientific 
world-view is admitted to be true, man's power to make 
moral choices and appeal to moral standards is not thereby 
diminished. Believing in electrons instead of angels may 
diminish (or increase) his interest in the universe, and 
change his feelings about it; but the essence of moral 
choice lies in man's power to become critical toward 
beliefs, interests, and feelings. Hence, while a shift from 
a religious to a scientific view of the universe may do much 
to persuade men to revise some of their moral principles, 
it can do nothing to prove such principles wrong. Even so 
highly civilized a maxim as "Be in all things moderate," 
which is usually traced to Aristotle in the Western world 
and to Confucius in the East, had at least one of its roots 
in the early Greek belief that the gods are jealous of a man 
who commits the sin of fySpis ('pride') in trying to be 
their equal. That we no longer believe, as a rule, in the 
Greek picture of a universe peopled by jealous deities does 


not prohibit us from accepting the principle of moderation 
as good for its own sake. The realm of discourse in terms 
of which the universe may be described and that in terms 
of which moral principles may be significantly postulated 
ought not to be confused. 

If physics has appeared to reduce man's stature in terms 
of space, biology, in offering the hypothesis of evolution, 
has appeared to many to do so in terms of time. In 
Chapter VIII some of the gaps in the hypothesis were 
shown, as well as some of the irrationalities of the popular 
ideology to which it has given rise. Much of the public 
opposition to the hypothesis, however, has been not on the 
ground of inadequate evidence or ideological irrationality 
(since neither of these objections has ever seemed of great 
importance to the generality of men), but on the grounds 
that it conflicted with certain doctrines of revealed religion 
and that it deprived man of his natural dignity as lord of all 
creation, and even, by reducing him to the level of animals, 
of his moral autonomy. Opposed to this more orthodox 
attempt to make the postulates of morality depend on 
an anti-evolutionistic biology, there is another group, 
of which Herbert Spencer was for a long time the most 
eminent, which commits the even stranger fallacy of sup- 
posing that from the hypothesis of evolution the leading 
principles of morality can be deduced as corollaries. The 
argument is roughly that since it is better to be a man than 
one of the simpler organisms from which man is supposedly 
descended, the process by which this * descent' has taken 
place is a good and man's highest obligation is to continue 
his upward journey by incorporating in his personal life 
the principles that have been at work in the evolutionary 

This reduction was easier for Spencer than it would 
be for a biologist today, since he believed that evolution 
has gone on in a straight line under the guidance of 


increased 'adaptation/ by which he meant chiefly in- 
crease of complexity, of functional differentiation and 
correlation. Responsible biologists, as was pointed out in 
Chapter VIII, no longer believe in a straight line evolu- 
tion. But in any case Spencer's confusion of morality 
with presumed biological facts is unjustified. An increase 
of complexity for man usually means changes in social 
institutions, and these are scarcely comparable to for in- 
stance the increased physiological complexity that might 
have occurred in the development from a lizard to a bird. 
And it is always possible to ask whether increased com- 
plexity, or any other evolutionary 'advance/ is good. 
Man's biological future may, as we have seen, destroy 
the possibilities of those values he now accepts; but 
speculation about future facts of this kind does not prevent 
him from now accepting those values. It is certainly true 
that biology has helped to reveal to man his own nature, 
and thereby has given him the opportunity of ordering 
his moral choices more wisely; but it has not provided, 
nor can it provide, a definitive standard from which his 
specific choices may be deduced. 

(3) The facts of psychology. The field of psychology 
has a special relation to ethics. Being more closely re- 
lated to ethics (for moral judgments and decisions, what- 
ever their outward reference, may also be regarded as 
facts in the individual's mental life) it cannot be readily 
discarded; but having a less clearly definable subject- 
matter than the other sciences just mentioned, the precise 
nature of the relation must vary according to the particu- 
lar set of psychological theories that may be from time 
to time upheld. 

One psychological doctrine of particular influence in the 
history of ethics has been psychological hedonism, the 
doctrine that every man seeks naturally to secure his own 
greatest pleasure and to avoid pain, and that all his 


conscious activities must therefore be interpreted as in- 
tended to lead somehow, directly or indirectly, to this 
end. Although this doctrine appears to be at variance 
with the manifest fact that persons do sometimes re- 
nounce pleasures and freely accept pains, the words 
'pleasure* and 'pain' are sufficiently vague that by making 
the proper shifts in their meaning the doctrine can be 
kept true. Thus Bernard de Mandeville writes: "There 
is no merit in saving an innocent babe ready to drop into 
the fire; the action is neither good nor bad, and what 
benefit soever the infant received, we only obliged our- 
selves; for to have seen it fall and not striven to hinder it, 
would have caused a pain, which self-preservation caused 
us to prevent/' In other words, the doctrine can be 
accepted only by letting 'pain' mean the motive behind 
whatever behavior is actually avoided, and 'pleasure* 
the motive behind whatever behavior is actually chosen. 
A murderer who plots a dastardly crime, a martyr who 
goes willingly to the stake, a mathematician who works 
over a difficult theorem, a ne'er-do-well who spends the 
day loafing each of them is pursuing, so far as he can 
determine it, his own greatest pleasure and striving to 
avoid pain; because pleasure and pain are defined in 
such a way as to make the statement true of all of them. 
But to use pleasure and pain so loosely is to turn them 
into question-begging words, and the statement that the 
attainment of one and the avoidance of the other is the 
foundation of every human action becomes a pseudo- 
statement, since it violates the principle of significant 
assertion. Undoubtedly pleasure and avoidance of pain, 
whether for oneself or others, can be and often are objects 
of moral choice. It is even possible to accept them as the 
highest of moral ends, and this is the distinguishing 
postulate of the doctrine known as ethical hedonism. The 
main point for a critical inquiry to establish is that 


psychological hedonism and ethical hedonism are doctrines 
referring to entirely distinct sets of problems, and neither 
one therefore is deducible from the other. In fact, if 
both were to use the word 'pleasure* in the same sense 
they would be mutually inconsistent. If it were abso- 
lutely true that pleasure in some determinant form, such 
as intellectual activity or physical lust or social service, 
is always as a matter of fact chosen whenever its attain- 
ment is possible, that fact, far from supporting the 
ethical doctrine that such a pleasure ought to be chosen, 
would make the question of 'ought* meaningless. If we 
are made in such a way that we cannot choose not to do a 
thing, it adds nothing to say that we ought to do it. 
Obviously, however, if psychological hedonism were stated 
in terms of any particular kind of pleasure and pain it 
would be, though meaningful, demonstrably untrue. It 
retains, therefore, its persuasiveness and appearance of 
truth only by keeping its principal terms so inexact that 
they can be successfully neither affirmed nor denied. 

Psychological hedonism is, to be sure, of less prominence 
in psychology today than formerly. 'Pleasure* is recog- 
nized as an all too unanalytical concept for solving any 
genuine problems. But the fallacy of supposing that 
psychological generalizations (or pseudo-generalizations) 
are capable of solving moral problems is still current. 
In particular the Freudian psychology, with its emphasis 
on the sex element in human interests and the restrictions 
imposed by the 'censor* on our natural libidos, has been 
used indiscriminately in a good deal of contemporary 
ethical discussion. Even if the Freudian emphasis were 
justified as a descriptive explanation of how we behave, 
it could still not furnish ethics with any coercive standard 
of conduct. Toward the facts of psychoanalysis, as toward 
facts drawn from any of the descriptive sciences, ethics 
is critical. So far as a situation is genuinely moral, facts 


cannot legislate for it. They become rather the materials 
out of which, consciously reflected on, the moral choice 
can be made. 


Since the moral realm is to be distinguished from related 
realms that administer to without fully determining its 
meanings, it is important to formulate the postulates in 
terms of which the moral realm is defined. In seeking 
the postulates of any realm of discourse we must be care- 
ful to include only those primary propositions that are 
essential to it. By 'primary' is meant that the postulates 
must be underived with respect to the realm of discourse 
to which they belong; by 'essential' that they must be 
propositions whose denial would rule out the realm of 
discourse as meaningless. In a realm of discourse such 
as ethics it is hardly to be expected that there will be the 
same unanimity about postulates or about the use of terms 
as in a subject like mathematics. As arithmetic must ac- 
cfept certain basic terms without definition, such as one y 
so too must ethics accept good and bad^ or some synony- 
mous pair of terms in this role. But with a difference: 
whereas the terms of arithmetic are related to one an- 
other by strictly numerical differences, the terms of ethics 
are related organically. They grow up together and ac- 
quire meaning from one another in the actual process of 
reasoning or discussion. Consequently an analysis of the 
field of ethics into primary terms and postulates is an 
artificial approach. We do not normally think about 
moral problems in any such way, and the only justifica- 
tion for the analysis is that by it the nature and limits 
of the field of ethics and the kind of reasoning that ethical 
problems require are clarified. In other words, the postu- 
lates of the moral realm are not descriptive summations. 


They are the presuppositions that are implicit in our 
thinking about moral problems and that distinguish 
problems genuinely moral from other problems often 
confused with them. 

Postulate (i). Some things (motives, acts, or states of 
being) are better (and therefore if within our power more 
choiceworthy) than others. So far as the necessity and 
primacy of the postulate is concerned it does not matter 
whether we consider the reference of the moral judgment 
as focussed on motives, acts, or effects brought about by 
the performance of acts. At any rate, either human acts 
or something related to human acts as cause or effect are 
being evaluated. The postulate acquires meaning through 
the familiar fact that we are able to imagine and there- 
fore to compare. In making a moral judgment we must 
be able to contrast a remembered or imagined state of 
affairs with either the present actual situation or with 
another remembered or imagined state of affairs, and the 
contrast must be in terms of the question: Which, accord- 
ing to some standard or other, is better? 

Postulate (ii). Some things are y at least limitedly, 
within our power to choose. What this postulate says is 
that Postulate (i) is sometimes applicable. The moral 
good is not a wholly passive good; it involves an ought. 
An 'ought' in turn implies some degree of freedom in the 
person on whom the obligation is imposed. There is no 
meaning in saying that we ought to obey the law of 
gravitation since (in one obvious sense) this is something 
we cannot choose but do. It is only so far as an act lies 
within our power to choose or reject that there is meaning 
in the proposition, We ought to perform it. Postulates 
(i) and (ii) taken together define the important notion of 
moral choice. 

Postulate (iii). It is possible to determine the present 
choice by reference to an ideal standard. By * ideal standard ' 


is meant one that is not subject to the whims of the mo- 
ment, one that objectifies moral choice by making it re- 
sponsible. This postulate refers to the moral aspect of the 
fourth characteristic of the self discussed in the last chap- 
ter, 'the integration of self/ It affirms the possibility of 
organizing our moral life by relation to a structure that 
goes beyond any given present, by which we might, for 
example, judge bad an act which we nevertheless per- 
formed a judgment that would be meaningless unless 
this postulate were implicitly accepted. The standard 
need not be any recognized moral code; it might be 
simply our own developed conception of our self. 

To rate something is precisely to preserve it, in a way of 
decree, from the caprices of personal appreciation; it is to give it 
a right over oneself, and thereby the cogency of law. Value is 
nothing else than the legalization of a wish. If I judge it proper 
to act always in such a way as to respect a certain principle, my 
judgment can be analysed as follows: I have first given consent 
to the principle which seems to me to sum up and define my 
craving for the good; then, in the same movement, I have made 
this principle into a law, in order to guarantee me against my- 
self. 1 

A moral self, in this sense of the word, need not of course 
be conventionally moral at all. A man may heed all the 
conventions that society imposes without fulfilling an 
essential condition determining a moral self: the ideal 
standards by which he acts must be his own; it must be 
his craving for the good that they sum up and define. 
They may, of course, be in accord with the mores of the 
social group of which he is a member; in fact, they will 
always be so to some, generally to a large extent. But 
the important thing, and what makes a person a moral 
self rather than a social automaton is that he is critically 

1 Ramon Fernandez, "A Humanist Theory of Value," The Criterion^ Jan. 
1930, p. 241. 


aware of the ideal standards as defining what he has 
freely chosen as his own good. He will thus recognize 
obligations, but they will be obligations the principle of 
which has been freely accepted. 

Postulate (i v) . It is possible to subordinate my individual 
desires and choices to a concept of what is good for some social 
group of which I conceive myself to be a member. This is 
the postulate underlying the social aspect of morality. 
Taken with the three preceding postulates it helps to 
define social responsibility, or what it means to be a 
socially moral self. As a matter of fact, it is only by a 
logical abstraction that we can talk of a moral self whose 
moral character is not in some way or other socially di- 
rected. Attempts, such as that of de Mandeville in the 
above quoted passage, to interpret all acts of apparent 
altruism as merely subtle or roundabout ways of gaining 
some selfish end are 'evident examples of the reductive 
fallacy which this fourth postulate opposes. On the other 
hand, the social group to which the subordination of 
choices is made is nearly always determinate and there- 
fore limited. Even though we are willing to recognize 
(at least in theory) some minimum obligation to all 
sentient creatures such as the avoidance of causing 
them unnecessary suffering (when we stop to think about 
it) there is at any rate a great difference between the 
kind and degree of obligation we can feel toward sentient 
or even human beings in general and the more positive 
obligations we feel toward persons with whom we have 
some common tie. 


(1) Structuralization of the good. Among the goods 
toward which we may direct our conduct, some are 
obviously more important than others. It is mildly good 


to have a lemon fizz on a hot afternoon or to receive 
courteous treatment from people with whom we are doing 
business, but we are not much disturbed if such goods 
do not materialize. On the other hand, according to most 
accounts, it is a major good to have generally excellent 
health; and most people would consider long continued 
ill health, whatever might be its indirect spiritual benefits, 
a^major bad. The latter, more important goods may be 
called dominant; and the less important, subordinate. 
The distinction between them is emphasized by the fact 
that we are ready to abandon, on occasion, subordinate 
goods, particularly if by the abandonment some dominant 
good is made more accessible as we might give up going 
to the theatre for a season in order to pay a dentist who, 
we imagine, will aid us in preserving health; but we do 
not give up dominant goods unless either ungovernable 
circumstances or the prior claim of some other dominant 
good forces us to. And when our moral choice lies between 
two dominant goods, not both of which we can attain, as 
in the nature of things must sometimes happen, we are 
faced with the most difficult of moral situations. 

Allied to this distinction, though not identical with it, 
is the important and familiar distinction between ends 
and means. The relation between them is a shifting one, 
as a moment's reflection will show. Every action can be 
regarded, with reference to some other action, as an end; 
moreover, every end both requires means for its achieve- 
ment and is in its turn a means to further ends. A sub- 
way ride, which we should probably not take if we could 
be miraculously transported to our destination, is itself 
the end of our walk to the station, and the means of 
getting to work; through work we may make money for 
a trip to Europe. The trip to Europe may be an aspect 
of more general ends, such as an increase of acquaintance 
with forms of social prganization, a knowledge of painting, 


or an avoidance of Prohibition. But acquaintance with 
social organizations will enable the traveller, when he 
returns, to see in a new light and more penetratingly the 
characteristics of American life; and a knowledge of 
painting may, if nothing else, make him more sensitive 
to the beauty of nature and of human beings. Ends and 
means are laced together, and there is probably no end, 
however lofty, that might not in some circumstances and 
from some point of view be a means; nor any means that 
might not sometime be regarded as an end. 

An instance of the interchangeability of ends and means 
is found in the relation between one's work and one's 
leisure. We often tend to think of this as a process of 
alternate work and play, of doing something that we do 
not want to do in order to get the money to pay for what 
we do want to do. Means and end are here looked on as 
sharply distinct: the means an irksome necessity with 
which we should only too gladly dispense if we could. 
A critical reflection will show how doubtful this is in 
many cases. If we are interested in work only for the 
money it will bring, it is not likely in the long run to bring 
much, since what is felt as drudgery will be done per- 
functorily, and in some degree negligently. We may for 
a time nerve ourselves to its performance, but in the end 
our energies are bound to ebb, and the performance of 
our duties to deteriorate. To be interested in a business 
or profession is the first condition for success in it, a con- 
dition which suggests that the work is for us an end as well 
as a means. 

But despite the interrelatedness of ends and means, it is 
evident that some things are good primarily or even al- 
most wholly as means and not as ends. Money, for exam- 
ple, is certainly the goal that inspires a great number of 
human actions, but except to one who is pathologically 
avaricious, money is not primarily a good in itself but 


good for what it can provide: food, clothing, houses, 
automobiles, leisure, freedom from anxiety, power, social 
acceptability. Money, therefore, except to a miser, is 
primarily an extrinsic^ not an intrinsic good. Other ex- 
amples of extrinsic goods would be (for most persons) 
setting-up exercises, a ride on a crowded subway, a dose 
of castor oil. Each of these can be from some points of 
view an end: we go to the druggist's as a means toward 
getting the castor oil. But it is not as ends that they are 
good. If castor oil were not known to have certain bene- 
ficial properties most persons would certainly not choose 
to drink it; its value, therefore, is extrinsic. Hearing 
a symphony or reading poetry, on the other hand, so far 
as these acts were done for the enjoyment they gave and 
not for some ulterior end, would be predominantly in- 
trinsic goods. They would of course be means as well 
as ends, since they would not be wholly without conse- 
quences, but since their principal justification lies in them- 
selves or in the actual intelligent enjoyment of them, not 
in some quite separate effect, the good we find in them 
is intrinsic. 

Now since we can recognize a number of acts or situations 
as intrinsically good, there might seem to be some common 
characteristic that they all share, by virtue of which they 
can be so described. A mathematician may find intrin- 
sic goodness in the solving of a complicated equation, an 
explorer in the sheer adventure of coming on un tracked 
land, a mother in the welfare of her brood, a lover of music 
in an expertly conducted performance of a Brahms sym- 
phony, a mystic in the intuition of God. What is it that 
these diverse situations have in common, to which we 
refer when we judge them each intrinsically excellent ? Or, 
as philosophers have sometimes asked the question, what 
is the Supreme Good? 

Without ourselves attempting a final answer to so haz- 


ardous a question we may examine a few of the answers 
that have been offered. Against the varieties of ethical 
monism to which such attempts lead, it has been argued 
that a single formulation of what is good is out of the 
question; that there is no reason to accept the ideology 
of a moral pyramid with extrinsic goods at the base and 
a single Supreme Good at the apex; and that, finally, 
any attempt to state a single final Good appears to lead 
inevitably to one of two results: either it is stated in such 
vague terms that with a certain amount of ingenuity on 
the part of the applicant it can be applied to any action 
or situation whatever; or it is so abstract as to lose all 
contact with the concrete actions and situations that 
make up our everyday lives. An abstraction, shorn of 
all content, may be an end to argue about but it can 
hardly be one to live toward. Nevertheless, an alleged 
final Good, if accepted, may provide a kind of regulative 
ideal by which we can direct particular choices, and 
thereby integrate our lives. 

(2) Pleasure vs. asceticism. The doctrine accepting 
pleasure as the highest good has already been referred 
to as ethical hedonism, and has been separated from the 
psychological theory of hedonism. Psychological hedon- 
ism may be rejected without detriment to ethical hedon- 
ism, which asserts not that pleasure is the only thing we 
do want but that it is the only thing we ought to want. 
Ethical hedonism may be individualistic or social, accord- 
ing as the pleasure of each individual or the pleasure of 
the social aggregate is emphasized. The latter type is 
known as utilitarianism, and is a modern development of 
hedonism, coincident with the growth of political democ- 

According to hedonism the essential moral problem is 
always to decide which of several proposed courses of 
action offers the greatest surplus of pleasure over pain. 


In the most thorough-going of the hedonists, Bentham, 
this involves an actual calculus, an estimation in definite 
pleasure-units of the amount of pleasure to be gained by 
a given course of action, and a similar estimate of the 
amount of pain. After all the prospective courses of 
action have been thus measured the decision, the moral 
decision, goes automatically in favor of that which shows 
the largest pleasure-balance or the smallest pain-balance. 
However, neither Bentham nor anyone else has shown 
how the unit which forms the basis of the whole procedure 
is to be found, and it is obvious that no such unit is 
possible. No experience is more familiar than that of 
discovering something highly pleasurable in anticipation 
to be a disappointment when had. It is often quite im- 
possible to tell which of two pleasures, enjoyed in im- 
mediate succession, is more pleasant, and to tell how 
pleasurable anything will be for which we are planning 
a year or a decade in advance is totally impossible. There 
is no quantitative basis for comparing pleasures, for the 
most striking thing about them is their qualitative dif- 
ferences differences such as exist between the 'pleas- 
ures' of looking at a picture, of playing a fast game of 
tennis, of making love, of writing a book. We may be 
fairly sure that we should enjoy inheriting a million 
dollars, and be pained at being sent to the electric chair; 
but the notion of finding an exact measure of either feel- 
ing, as we can measure the boiling point of water, or 
enumerate the population of New York, is preposterous 
to the point of absurdity, and no one has ever attempted 
to do it. 

Hedonism, however, does not stand or fall with the 
hedonistic calculus, though some such calculus would be 
necessary for its exact application. Such a writer as Mill 
interprets hedonism through a belief that for the most 
part human laws and institutions record the ascertained 


effects of actions upon human happiness, effects which 
cannot be discovered with anything like mathematical 
precision, but which can in the long run and on the whole 
be assigned a definite value. Murder, rape and arson 
are so generally bad in their effects; honesty, candor, 
kindliness, justice so nearly always good, that it is not 
necessary to resort to any calculation of pleasure and 
pain when they are in question. The fact need not be 
disputed, but Mill, by admitting that pleasures differ in 
quality implicitly admits also that the reduction of the 
good to pleasure cannot be made. The whole value of 
pleasure as a conception by which ethical good can be 
measured lies in making the conception quantitative 
only. Mill's ethics in its final form is like an economics 
which attempts to give an exhaustive valuation of all 
things in dollars and cents, and then adds, as an after- 
thought, that some dollars are better than others. 

The dilemma of hedonism has already been suggested. 
If pleasure is to stand for something definite, and thus 
be meaningful, it must mean something fairly close to 
physical pleasure. We may say, not with absolute pre- 
cision but with reasonable accuracy, that it is less pleasant 
to be stung by a bee than to eat a well prepared meal, 
to sleep on the floor than on a soft bed, and so on. 'A 
good time' in a vague sense is also understandable: we 
prefer to spend our vacation travelling in Switzerland 
than to spend it reading proof for the telephone directory. 
But the expression 'a good time' is grossly inadequate 
for the satisfaction we find in hearing that a parent or 
child, desperately ill, has passed the crisis of the disease 
and is recovering; and to apply it to a scientist who 
allows himself to be infected with a dangerous disease 
in order to test the effectiveness of a new antitoxin, or 
the martyr who prefers death to the betrayal of his re- 
ligion, is grotesque. In order to make hedonism applicable 


to cases such as these we must define pleasure as 'what- 
ever satisfies any desire/ and it then becomes, as we have 
seen, question-begging. From the general formula of he- 
donism no specific consequences can be drawn, and it 
is not therefore a genuine hypothesis. 

If, on the other hand, we keep to the more restricted 
meaning of pleasure, the consequences of hedonism are 
definite enough, but not of a kind that honorable or 
reasonable beings could accept. They constitute the 
philosophy of the ruthless voluptuary, whose definition 
of pleasure has at least the merit of specificity. And if 
pleasure in a sufficiently specific sense is accepted as an 
end, it is beside the point to argue that the degrading 
and selfish consequences of this acceptance will be tem- 
pered by our 'finer feelings/ by a sensitiveness to other 
people's opinions, or by those natural sympathies whereby 
we tend to avoid actions hurtful or offensive to others 
because their pain is painful to us too. For it is a familiar 
fact that 'finer feelings' and social sympathies are easily 
blunted, and that it is perfectly possible to set out sys- 
tematically to become completely callous. By so doing we 
could attain a frame of mind in which no obstacle to any 
wish of ours existed except the penalties of law and of 
public opinion, and even these would be deterrents only 
in so far as our technique of evasion was imperfect. The 
best man morally would then be the voluptuary who was 
also versed in dissimulation. Hedonists, however, have 
not as a rule been willing to accept this corollary. 

In short, the fallacy of extreme hedonism lies in a 
mistaken notion of what pleasure is. Pleasure is not an 
independent organic activity that can be sought divorced 
from any other; it is rather the accompaniment of many 
diverse activities. Pleasure in vacuo would seem desirable 
to almost no one; it is the activities pleasure accompanies 
that we do often seek. In fact if the pleasure rather than 


the activity is the conscious end, we are seldom successful 
in gaining it. Hedonistic philosophers have generally 
recognized this, and it is a not too remarkable fact that 
many of the best known hedonists, in the details of their 
theories and in their personal lives, have been anything 
but seekers after pleasure in the usual sense of the word. 
Epicurus and his followers, popularly associated with 
libertine indulgence, were wont to seek the simplest and 
most frugal of pleasures. The utilitarians, Bentham and 
Mill, were primarily social reformers; and their advocacy 
of hedonism was largely in the interests of a standard 
which could give point to their arguments for improving 
the condition of the working classes. While these and 
similar examples have contributed toward making he- 
donistic doctrines morally respectable, they show more 
clearly than ever the grave ambiguity of the doctrine. 

Opposed in its theoretical formulation to hedonism is 
asceticism, the doctrine whose ideal is complete self- 
abnegation, with especial reference to the denial of all 
the 'pleasures of the senses/ Asceticism has never been 
accepted so generally or so thoroughly in the West as in 
the East. In some branches of the Hindu religion asceti- 
cism utilizes a system of self-discipline called Yoga which 
attempts to procure for its practitioners a general indif- 
ference to physical pleasures, to make them superior to 
discomfort and pain, to free them from the material 
requirements which they feel to be so heavy a drag on 
the things of the spirit. The final goal of spiritual develop- 
ment is to cast off Maya, the veil of illusion which is the 
physical universe, and attain Nirvana, absorption in the 
infinite Being with complete loss of personal identity. 
In the West some degree of asceticism has been associated 
from the beginning with Christianity, and it is summed 
up in the vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience taken 
by novitiates in many religious orders, as well as more 


strikingly in the bodily disciplining of early saints and 
hermits. In western asceticism, however, self-denial has 
usually been not the final end but a means to a more 
complete realization of self in the knowledge of God, in 
a Beatific Vision. 

(3) Self and society. Many ethical theorists treat 
morality as predominantly a social matter, as a question 
of the individual's obligations to his fellow men. This, as 
we have seen, is but one part of morality; an individual has 
also his obligation to his own 'moral self in the sense de- 
fined by Postulate (iii). The ideal of asceticism is un-social, 
and perhaps actually anti-social inasmuch as the ascetic 
contributes nothing materially (though from a religious 
point of view it may be that he contributes something 
spiritually) to social welfare. And there are other un-social 
ideals, as for example certain forms of what may be called 
'the esthetic ideal/ manifested in the 'Art for Art's sake' 
movement of the 1890*5, and in the contemporary sur- 
realist movement centered in Paris. Moral problems for 
the surrealist are solely an affair of the individual. It is 
simply a social accident that he happens to be in such and 
such a society in such and such a time and place. His 
moral business is to realize his own possibilities. 

Ascetics and surrealists are generally looked on as idio- 
syncratic and even pathological. It is however necessary 
for a critical ethics to make clear that their moral atti- 
tude points to a genuine and important problem, a prob- 
lem that is at the present time more insistent and cap- 
able of more articulate formulation than under the more 
closely unified social conditions of most past civilizations. 
This problem used to be referred to through an opposi- 
tion between egoism and altruism. Critical examination 
will demonstrate that egoism or altruism as a moral ideal, 
if carried to an extreme, is self-contradictory: egoism, 
because the notion of an isolated self is empty, and be- 


cause, for at least most people, not only is cooperation 
necessary to life, but many of the highest goods, such as 
friendship and love, involve other people; and altruism, 
because if it is blessed only to give, we do an indirect 
wrong by making others receive, and because, in the theo- 
retically ideal society, there will be no one to receive since 
all will be only giving. Nevertheless a real opposition 
remains: between what might be called a personalistic 
ideal, finding value in the development of one's self to- 
gether with those who are for one truly persons that 
is, family, friends, and intimate associates; and a social 
ideal, finding value in efforts directed toward the good of 
'society,' that is toward the good of what, though its 
ultimate referents are human beings, is necessarily an 
abstraction from the point of view of the individual. 

Not unnaturally, most moral virtues that have been 
mainly emphasized by ethical writers justice, truth- 
fulness, patriotism, liberality, obedience, respect for hu- 
man life and private property, etc. are either primarily 
social in their reference or are treated primarily from a 
social point of view (an individual of course might hold 
to an ideal of truthfulness quite apart from the social 
effects of lying). Indeed, acts in accordance with these 
virtues have often been allegedly 'proved' morally good 
by showing the pernicious social effects that would result 
from the failure to observe them, as for example the im- 
possibility of communication and consequently of co- 
operation that would follow if people did not try to tell 
the truth. But such reasoning neglects the prior ques- 
tion already stated of how far the individual ought to 
identify his own good with the good for society. Specific 
manifestations of the difficulty are frequent enough. For 
instance, should I, if I am able, contribute in money, 
time, labor, or however it may be, to unemployment re- 
lief funds if to do so means taking away goods (even 


though these goods may be 'luxuries' such as music and 
the theater) from myself and my family? On the one 
side is the almost universally recognized obligation to 
alleviate the suffering of conscious beings, particularly 
apparent in this case since the possession of material 
goods is never due wholly to individual efforts, but is 
usually in chief part made possible by the society in 
which the individual finds himself. On the other there 
are the skeptical possibilities of doubting whether society 
ever progresses no matter what an individual does, 
whether anyone really can 'do good* to society, and 
whether, if one can, the society in which the individual 
finds himself is worth preserving; and further the more 
general question whether the individual should allow an 
obligation to the abstraction 'society* to take precedence 
over the personal goods that might be more certainly 
obtained by un-social activities. The acceptance of one 
set of obligations leads toward a narrow selfishness and 
social anarchy; the other, toward a sentimental humani- 
tarianism or the worship of an inhuman 'state/ What- 
ever may be our decision as to adopting a generally social 
or un-social ideal, it is certain that most social virtues 
need re-formulation after philosophical examination. 
Justice, patriotism, respect for property, in spite of the 
nobility that may seem to surround them when con- 
templated in the abstract, become with great ease cover- 
ings for the oppression of the weak, the furthering of 
private and predatory interests, the systematic decep- 
tion of the great part of society. If a critical ethics 
is to accept them, it can do so only after prolonged 

More positively anti-social, at least in its implications, 
is the ideal of power, the most famous spokesman for which 
was Friedrich Nietzsche. For Nietzsche the truly moral 
man is the Superman, who makes his will effective over 


others, and whose ideal is realization of what Nietzsche 
calls 'the will to power.' 'Honor/ in the specific sense 
in which it is part of the code of the gentleman, the noble- 
man, but not of the person in low station, may be said to 
be equivalent to the will to power, and the code based 
upon it is described as 'master morality,' as distinct from 
'slave morality/ the morality of the herd. In slave 
morality such qualities as pity, humility, self-sacrifice are 
regarded as virtues; Nietzsche considers them, on the 
contrary, artful but contemptible devices by which the 
weak enslave the strong. They are servile qualities, 
opposed to everything noble, and a man capable of a 
really valuable life will reject and despise them. But 
when Nietszche said "Be hard!" the person to whom the 
hardness was to be applied was in the first instance one's 
self. Softness of fibre, in one's self no less than in others, 
was the principal object of his diatribes, and it may be 
said that he considered the conquest of one's own self 
even more important than that of others. But Nietzsche 
was less a consistent philosopher than a seer or a prophet, 
and many of his utterances are panegyrics upon the man 
who simply wants something violently and will take it, 
no matter who stands in his way. 

The cult of power may take other forms, and is probably 
much less widely expressed than it would be if there were 
no need for camouflage. All those who feel that it is 
disgraceful to be weak or subordinate, that it is not only 
a fact but a desirable fact that the powerless should go to 
the wall and the strong survive and enjoy the earth and 
the fruits thereof, are sharers in this view. The reluctance 
of politicians to go out of office and of everyone who occu- 
pies a position of authority to relinquish it, are examples, 
and so is the widespread conviction that the successful 
man is he who gains control of public affairs. The desire 
to direct the destinies of other people, and if not exactly 


to push them about like automatons, at least to play a 
part, and an important part, in their destinies is a master 
passion with many persons, and there is probably no one 
to whom it is altogether unknown. 

Any too specific formulation of the ideal of power 
meets the same logical difficulty that we found in dis- 
cussing the ideal of pleasure. What is to be considered 
true power? Physical power is supremely effective in a 
boxing ring, but does not count for much on Wall Street. 
Money in most countries brings a very real power of one 
sort, but how is it to be compared with the power of, say, 
Stalin ? Or of Ghandi ? The unnoticed power of American 
publicity agents who choose to remain anonymous proba- 
bly influences many more men than force of arms or 
speeches of politicians. And a priest, dedicated to ideals 
of self-abnegation, may yet be the chief force in determin- 
ing the conduct of his parishioners. Like pleasure, to 
remain an acceptable ideal, the concept of power must be 
so extended as to become question-begging, to become 
synonymous with the whole notion of a moral life. 

The ideal of power, though anti-social in the sense 
that it may involve a disregard of the moral values held 
by others, is nevertheless not un-social, for concrete mani- 
festations of power require other people to make them pos- 
sible. A purely solipsistic ideal, we have already noted, 
is artificial. The individual does as a matter of fact exist 
in a society, in communion with other men, and he is un- 
able to realize his own possibilities, whether individualistic 
or altruistic, without them. 

Opposed both to the anti-social doctrine of Nietzsche 
and to the more or less un-social cults of complete self- 
abnegation, have been numerous attempts to delineate 
more positively the individual's obligations to society. 
One attempt, which may serve for illustration, was made 
by the late F. H. Bradley in his well-known essay, My 


Station and its Duties. 1 According to Bradley a man's 
moral life is primarily and chiefly a matter of discharging 
the functions assigned him by his position in society, 
more particularly the organized society known as the 
'state.' As against hedonism this has (so the argument 
runs) the advantage that it makes morality look outward, 
consider duties as something definitely there, and not as 
derivative from something subjective, from calculations 
of either one's own or other people's pleasure. Such cal- 
culations are of necessity highly fallible, since they involve 
an estimate of what I myself, or still worse what other 
persons will find agreeable at some time, perhaps years 
hence. Planning to get a job done, or doing what is 
obviously necessary at the moment, though these things 
may be difficult, are comparatively definite and do not 
involve the reference to my own and others' feelings which, 
in any doubtful issue, hedonism makes the essential 
matter in the problem. As against mere obedience to 
law, whether moral or political, Bradley's standard is 
concrete: instead of a general maxim to apply, we have 
a specific role to play, a function to discharge. For 
instance: the specific form taken by any one of the recog- 
nized virtues is dependent upon the individual's place in 
the community. Courage in the soldier is a matter of 
defending the country against armed attack: it requires 
of him that he meet an enemy on the battlefield, but not 
that he stay in a pestilence-ridden city, or criticize the 
policy of the government; courage in a physician re- 
quires the former, in a political scientist or journalist it 
may require that he do the latter. A policeman is ex- 
pected to prevent an attempted holdup, but the casual 
passer-by may go about his business under such circum- 
stances without incurring the reproach of cowardice. 

1 Essay V in Ethical Studies. The doctrine is similar in fundamental respects 
to the one outlined by Plato in Book IV of the Republic. 


What would be extravagance for one with a family to 
support might be simple indulgence or harmless recrea- 
tion for one with no encumbrances. The total set of 
duties attaching to an occupation and a total set of cir- 
cumstances are the starting-point for everyone's moral 
obligations: they furnish him with the actual content 
of his moral will, and are his chief rule of guidance in 
doubtful cases. 

Such a view is essentially aristocratic; it depends upon 
a class-differentiation in society, and there follows from 
it the corollary that the highest goods are attainable only 
by a select few. This suggests what must be a funda- 
mental problem for any social morality: if, as seems in- 
evitable from the nature of the physical and social en- 
vironment, many goods are possible of attainment only 
by a small percentage of men at the cost of their exclusion 
from the majority, are we to admit into our moral judg- 
ments the class distinction this implies, or are we to 
reformulate moral theory in such a way as to postulate 
as dominant goods only what are in some manner accessi- 
ble to all? To illustrate by a crude example: if it is good 
to have wealth, large country estates, and leisure for social 
amenities and intellectual and artistic contemplation, and 
if as seems probable the nature of things will not permit 
these to be possessed in suitable amounts by everybody, 
is it better that a few should enjoy them at the expense 
of the rest, or should society be levelled off so that the 
material benefits they represent may be equitably distrib- 
uted, and the general level raised, however slightly, at 
the expense of the few? Communism, the social doctrine 
most conspicuous at the present time, chooses the latter 
alternative. It is interesting to observe that the choice 
between these two opposed social ideals, a choice which 
is in some measure forced by contemporary economic and 
political conditions, did not become prominent until 


somewhat recently. And this partly for an obvious 
reason: practically all literate men and consequently 
practically all those who wrote books on moral philosophy 
were formerly attached directly or indirectly to the aristo- 
cratic leisure class. And formerly, also, the class structure 
was taken for granted, and entered, therefore, auto- 
matically into the details of any moral philosophy. The 
increase of literacy and the advance of democratic and 
communistic ideologies has forced ethical theorists to 
become critical toward class problems, and to realize that 
a socio-moral structure based on a proletarian viewpoint 
might embody ideals far different from those traditionally 

(4) The sanctions of morality. The concluding para- 
graphs of the last section suggest a further problem that 
any social morality must face. Put in its lowest terms, 
the problem may be stated, "Why be good?" It should 
be observed, however, that for the morally mature in- 
dividual, as individual, this problem does not arise. He 
is at liberty to accept with no exterior sanction a self- 
integration based on his own conception of his enduring 
moral self. The problem now to be considered is, there- 
fore, not strictly a moral one. For the moral realm of 
discourse, the good is defined, by Postulate (i), as worthy 
of choice, and this definition must be accepted to make 
moral discussion intelligible. The present question is one 
of social causes: withdrawing from the moral realm of 
discourse, what causal factors determine men's social 
activities? For unfortunately the choices resulting from 
moral ideals accepted by an individual often bring about 
actions which hinder other individuals in the pursuit of 
their own ideals. Consequently, the problem of the sanc- 
tion of morality is for society acute and inevitable. Why 
should I be honest in business if by clever dishonesty I can 
make more money? Why should I tell the truth if it is 


materially profitable for me to lie? Why should a city 
plan streets and subways for future generations when 
this means additional heavy taxes on its living inhabit- 
ants? Why should we worry about the economic mis- 
fortunes of coal-miners ? Why should we build at our ex- 
pense comfortable homes for the aged and insane? 

In large measure these questions are answered for us by 
social habit. We act, somewhat clumsily perhaps, for 
the welfare of society because we have absorbed auto- 
matically from our parents, from the books and news- 
papers we read, from the preachers we hear, from the 
politicians and public relations counsels who govern us, a 
set of rules designed to promote such action. This 
strong force of social inertia tending to the preservation of 
social obligations has been hypostatized by certain writers 
as a 'group mind/ Whatever may be the value of such 
an ideology, the group mind has certainly no such close 
organization as the mind of an individual. Moreover, 
there is unmistakable evidence that today in most coun- 
tries any unity of social sentiment is being reduced to a 
smaller and smaller remainder. In Aristotle's time, and 
particularly in Greece before Aristotle, the existence of a 
group mind which took care of the sanctions of social 
morality was at least comprehensible. The inhabitants 
of each small Greek city-state were bound together by a 
unified social tradition which they all shared, and which 
they accepted for the most part without question. If 
nearly everyone in a society is agreed about what is 
right no further sanction is needed. 

But in contemporary industrial civilization the problem 
of moral sanction is peculiar in two ways. First, modern 
conditions appear to be promoting, in many directions, 
a consciousness of an opposition between the individual 
and society, a consciousness that has perhaps never be- 
fore been realized to any comparable extent. Ironically 


enough, such increased feelings of opposition occur at the 
very time when, due to the complicated organization of 
our economic life and the excessive specialization of most 
important social functions, we are more dependent than 
ever on the social organization. Without the relatively 
orderly functioning of a gigantic social machine of which 
hardly anyone is acquainted with more than a few cogs, 
the dweller in a modern city would be quite helpless. 
Nevertheless, side by side with the individual's increased 
actual dependence on society, his ability to dissociate 
himself in theory has been increased. It has become 
easier than formerly for even a comparatively unimagina- 
tive man to dissociate himself from any given social 
group, and at least one important reason for this is that 
nowadays each of us tends to consider himself a member 
of several different, sometimes conflicting groups. As 
Professor Perry has said: 

There is no individual who does not belong to something, and 
the average individual belongs to a great variety of intersecting 
groups, in each of which he has a different status and plays a 
different part. The activities incident to this multiple member- 
ship make up the larger part of a man's life, and the whole of his 
obituary. Unorganized social groups have also shown a tend- 
ency to increase in number, variety, volume, and importance. 
There have always been crowds; but whereas close physical 
proximity was once their necessary condition, modern facilities 
for communication, publicity, and transportation, together 
with the wide diffusion of literacy, have made it possible for 
crowd influences to overcome distance and to act upon the 
individual almost continuously. 1 

As a result of this situation individuals tend to become 
not of course independent of social influences, since to 
react against one social tendency is most of the time to 
do so under the influence of some other but less willing 

1 Ralph Barton Perry, General Theory of Value y p. 401. 


to acknowledge any preemptive obligation to a commonly 
shared social end. 

The other peculiarity of the problem of moral sanction 
as it has to be formulated at least as it has to be 
publicly formulated today is its secular character. A 
secular morality, separated from any of the religious 
world-views that originally gave substance to moral codes, 
while not a new thing, has lately achieved a widespread 
prominence never before known. How strong such a 
morality can be is still an open question, for history 
offers no clear analogy by which to judge. A large number 
of persons today take for granted that morality both can 
and must get along without religion. That some kind of 
morality will be found as long as men continue to live in 
society is of course true: is, in fact, a tautology. But 
what the character of a purely secular morality is likely to 
become as the moral habits built up on the foundations of 
religion abandon their support, no one can confidently say. 
To be sure, religious beliefs cannot be resuscitated at will 
merely for their supposed utilitarian benefits. A religion 
whose value is primarily utilitarian is no honest or even 
effective religion. But the traditional relation between 
morality and religion suggests at least the importance of 
examining, on independent grounds, the validity of re- 
ligious belief. To this we now turn. 




A philosophical inquiry into religion is faced with a 
special difficulty. A philosophy of the dciences or of 
morality deals with a subject-matter that is admitted to 
exist, and the principal concern of its inquiries is to de- 
termine the character and limitations of the subject- 
matter in question, its distinctive language, its initial 
postulates and their corollaries, and its relation to other 
realms of discourse. A philosophy of religion must have, 
with respect to the subject-matter of religion, a similar 
critical task to perform. But with this difference: that 
whereas nearly everyone accepts the problems of science 
and the problems of morality as fundamentally valid, 
though formulating them in a diversity of ways and giving 
various answers to them, the problems of religion, in 
anything like its traditional sense, have become suspect. 
Some of the reasons for this situation will be presently 
examined, but that the situation is actual few will deny. 

Philosophical criticism cannot be employed on a given 
subject-matter when the nature of that subject-matter 
is a closed book to the critic. In the cases of science and 
morality it is hardly possible to be wholly ignorant of 
their subject-matters, for there arise every day countless 
situations where decisions of some kind have to be made; 
and to make a reflective decision always implies some 
knowledge of what effects may be expected to follow from 
our acts (which is rudimentary science) and some choice 



of one effect rather than another (which is rudimentary 
morality). Science and morality are thus in some form 
inseparable from the daily life of everyone. It may be 
admitted, of course, that for many persons religion is 
equally indispensable. But there is a large, and it may 
be growing number of persons at the present time who 
find religion an unnecessary appendage to their reflective 
life. Religion, they hold, is a body of obsolete supersti- 
tions which the methods of modern science are progres- 
sively dispersing; and so far as it is anything more than 
that it is a body of moral precepts, such as the Ten Com- 
mandments and the teachings of the Sermon on the 
Mount, which could be redrafted 'in a saner and more 
workable form if detached from the air of supernatural 
authority with which religion invests them. 

So far as this position is given a theoretical formulation 
it becomes a metaphysical judgment and its limitations 
can be established dialectically as readily as those of any 
other metaphysical judgment. To formulate clearly a 
non-religious attitude is to say, by implication, something 
about the nature and possibilities of religion. But in 
many cases the opposition to religion is not primarily 
intellectual. It is due often in large part to lack of a 
religious temperament, to lack of acquaintance with any 
distinctively religious experience, and to a general, per- 
haps inarticulate feeling that religion as a mode of feeling 
and living is hopelessly far off from the insistent actualities 
of the contemporary everyday world. Where that situa- 
tion exists philosophy is powerless. It is not the business 
of philosophy to 'sell' religion. Nor could it do so, in 
any genuine sense, if it would. Just as colors have to be 
seen and sounds heard, to give an empirical content to a 
dialectical justification of the reality of secondary quali- 
ties, so religion has to be felt and accepted as at least a 
living problem before a philosophical examination of its 


claims can be more than a put up job. The limitations 
of a non-religious viewpoint and therefore the a priori 
possibility of religion can be established by dialectic, but 
dialectic can give no positive content to religion nor be 
a substitute for an experience and acceptance of religion 
itself. At best, it can establish a right of way for the 
validity of religious experiences when these are inde- 
pendently had, by showing a priori in what sense it is 
impossible to prove them false. An inquiry of this kind, 
into the a priori validity of religion, is the primary task 
of a philosophy of religion. 


In upholding the validity of religion we evidently mean 
to do more than assert the bare existence of religious 
experience. To assert only that would be to assert nothing 
at all. An experience testifies to some state of affairs 
beyond itself, and to ask whether an experience is valid 
is to ask not whether the experience somehow exists but 
whether what it testifies is true. If a believer were to 
declare that he has undergone an experience of com- 
munion with God, no one, unless wishing to impugn his 
veracity, would find any point in denying that he had 
undergone an experience. The important question would 
be not whether the experience had existed, but whether 
it really meant what it had seemed to mean. To inquire 
into the truth of religion, in other words, is not simply 
to inquire into the actuality of certain subjective states 
of mind, but to inquire into the truth of the religious 
world-view. Naturally, it would be a mistake to suppose 
that all religions have upheld the same world-view. This, 
as anyone with a smattering of history knows, is not the 
case. Nevertheless, for all their diversity, the various 
religious world-views must be alike in some respects, and 
if they are not the word 'religion* is sheer equivocation. 


Now what the various religious world-views have in 
common is a belief in the universe as in some way express- 
ing a cosmic drama of living forces; and opposed to this 
there stands a world- view that has of late been seriously 
challenging it and that may be called the scientific world- 
view^ which pictures the universe in terms of minute 
material particles or of units of electricity or of quanta of 
energy. Fundamentally the issue lies between belief in 
a living universe and belief in a dead one; between a 
universe in which there is a possibility of communion with 
a divine person or persons of a supernatural order and 
deliverance through that communion, and a universe in 
which, as Russell has said, "blind to good and evil, 
reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its 
relentless way." It is safe to say that during the last 
couple of centuries the latter view has gained in pres- 
tige, and it is of interest to consider why this has been 
the case. 

For one thing, science has been able to perform miracles. 
Skyscrapers and television inevitably impress people who 
live in a world transformed by them, and the success of 
science in creating these monsters has given prestige to 
the scientific world-view. The prestige-giving power of 
miracles is no new thing; religion] formerly benefited by 
it as science does today. In neither case does there 
appear to be any strict logical connection between the 
pragmatic value of a method and the philosophical truth 
of a world-view. That God proved he was in his heaven 
by drying up the Red Sea was never at any time sufficient 
proof that all was right with the world; nor does the 
uncanny precision with which modern astronomers can 
predict eclipses prove that God has fallen out of his 
heaven. But while no implicative relation is present, 
the persuasiveness of such arguments is strong. "A 
world- view must be true if it can enable its believers to 


perform miracles like that! some such unexpressed 
argument appears to have underlain both the older faiths 
and the modern. Now if the argument is accepted at all 
it at any rate works both ways, unless one is predisposed, 
as many today are, to accept none of the miracles of re- 
ligion as true. Such a refusal would ordinarily be justi- 
fied by appealing to the organized structure of scientific 
theories, and hence would be question-begging if made 
a ground for accepting exclusively the scientific world- 
view, since the scientific world-view consists in accepting 
the structures that grow out of science as the only true 
ones. But in any case miracles offer no logical support 
to any one world-view rather than any other. They 
serve merely as propaganda, and propaganda should 
have no place in a critical inquiry. The truth of one's 
profoundest visions ought not to be staked on such melo- 
dramatic tests. 

A second group of arguments, also not entirely relevant, 
in favor of a scientific world-view are moral ones. The 
issue of science vs. religion has got sometimes identified 
with the issue of enlightenment, liberalism, progress vs. 
obscurantism, dogma, reaction. The identification has 
acquired a certain popularity during approximately the 
last century and a half, and its meaning is worth con- 
sidering. Partly, it must be admitted, to call a man 
illiberal and reactionary is a result of finding his views 
too drastically out of line with our own or with the more 
advanced tendencies of a given age. That is to say, we 
attach these epithets not to the manner in which a man 
believes anything, not to the temper of mind and aware- 
ness of difficulties with which he approaches a believing 
of it (both of which are hard to determine), but to the 
particular proposition or doctrine that is the object of 
his belief. And, in this sense, to call science enlightened 
is merely to call it fashionable, and to call religion dog- 


matic is simply to declare it out of vogue among the 
'leaders of thought* of the day. Often, however, the 
critics of religion do have in mind much more than 
a contrast between belief-objects. It is the scientific 
temper, progressive and ready to change its hypotheses 
at the beck and call of 'new evidence' that they admire; 
whereas the relative conservatism of religion, the tendency 
to resist changes of doctrine, is considered an evil. So 
far as the question concerns only the moral desirability 
of a philosophical progressivism, it can be quickly an- 
swered. A great many persons take for granted without 
close examination that a liberal attitude, defined as one 
that shifts its center of gravity as often as buffetted by 
veering winds of doctrine, is good. The assumption is 
partly a matter of moral preference and partly a guess 
about the probable good effect of change on society. 
The assumed connection between unrestricted liberalism 
and the welfare of society was questioned at the end of 
the last chapter. To some degree the connection is made 
plausible by the question-beggingly favorable connota- 
tions of 'liberalism '; but putting aside emotive adhesions 
of the word, when liberalism is made synonymous with 
centrifugality, with lack of constancy to a group of socially 
accepted first principles of conduct and belief, it is doubt- 
ful whether society can endure indefinitely long under its 
banner. At least the ability of society to do so has never 
been proved, and the supposition that a willingness on 
the part of everybody to give up any and all beliefs as 
these are challenged by the influx of new scientific evi- 
dence, may be suspected in its extremer forms of being 
no more than a dogma of 'liberalism/ 

Both the pragmatic and the moral argument, then, in 
the forms just given, must be regarded as superficial 
and irrelevant in determining the issue between a scien- 
tific and a religious world-view. 


It is useless to judge a religion from the point of view of the 
politician or the social reformer. We shall never create a living 
religion merely as a means to an end, a way out of our practical 
difficulties. For the religious view of life is the opposite to the 
utilitarian. It regards the world and life sub specie aeternitatis. 
It is only by accepting the religious point of view, by regarding 
religion as an end in itself and not as a means to something else, 
that we can discuss religious problems profitably. 1 

What every candid reasoner feels to be at the core of the 
matter is the question of truth: not which world- view 
enables its adherents to perform more striking miracles 
or gain more of the world's riches, nor even which has the 
better effect on individuals and on society. So far as 
possible the question of philosophical 'truth* ought to be 
distinguished from both these subsidiary questions. If 
a world-view is on more pertinent grounds accepted as 
true, then if it will not work miracles we can borrow our 
technical methodologies from elsewhere and demarcate, 
as does Bergson, 'truth' from the useful fictions that 
constitute the ideology of science. Or if a world-view 
appears intrinsically true but its propagation hazardous 
to the welfare or even the continuance of society this 
possibility is generally ruled out a priori by liberals but 
it is evident that a critical approach to the problem can- 
not afford to overlook it we can then follow the sug- 
gestion given by Plato in the Republic, and distinguish 
between the education to be reserved for the intelligent 
few who are to rule the state and the 'noble lies' which in 
the interests of the state's perpetuation are to be dis- 
seminated among everybody in early childhood. But a 
genuine philosopher, if only to be enabled to make these 
distinctions clearly, will wish not to be himself deluded. 
And it is therefore necessary to pass beyond moral and 

1 Essays In Order. Christopher Dawson, " Christianity and the New Age," 
p. 172, 


pragmatic considerations and estimate the more impor- 
tant and more central attack that science has made on 
the religious world- view: that its doctrines are not useless 
or immoral butfa/se, being based an faulty evidence or 
on no valid evidence at all or even more flatly contra- 
dicting an array of evidence adducible by scientific 

Two of science's chief attacks may be summarized as 

(i) Religious explanations of events are contrary to 
scientific evidence. At best, they violate the Principle 
of Parsimony. This is illustrated by the famous story 
about Laplace, who, when Napoleon had finished reading 
his account of the origin of the solar system and had 
objected that there was no mention in it of God, replied 
"Sire, I have no need of that hypothesis." But further, 
many traditional religious explanations definitely contra- 
dict scientific evidence of some probability. The account 
for instance of the creation of the world and its inhabit- 
ants as given in the first chapters of Genesis is incom- 
patible with the accepted conclusions of astronomy 
geology, and biology. Doctrines like the Incarnation, 
Transubstantiation, personal immortality, and most 
important of all, because common to normal religions 
generally the existence of a God or gods, are being 
deprived by science of positive content, and often seem 
to be kept up merely because they refer to hidden crannies 
of experience that science has not yet penetrated. They 
are being pushed further and further from the ordinary 
course of our lives, until it is becoming difficult not only 
to believe in them, but even to have any notion of what 
they could mean. 

(ii) And if science cannot accept religious explanations 
as plausible or as consistent with its own explanations, 
it offers besides hypotheses of its own to account for the 


phases of experience of which the religious world-view is 
claimed to be an extension. 'Religious experiences' are 
dismissed as a complex state of neural and glandular 
activity; or, avoiding the physiological reduction, per- 
haps by a Freudian explanation in terms of 'escape' and 
* compensation' complexes due to the peculiar workings 
of the unconscious. As opposed to this, "the kernel of 
the scientific outlook," Bertrand Russell has said, "is 
the refusal to regard our own desires, tastes, and interests 
as affording a key to the understanding of the world." 1 

As a result of this situation and these arguments many 
suppose at the present time that it is impossible for an 
intelligent contemporary to believe in the religious world- 
view as traditionally defined. Yet because of the many 
values which religion has offered humility, fraternity, 
substantiation of ideals, solution of cosmic loneliness 
they do not like to see religion wholly lost. Hence both 
from the side of religion and from the side of science we 
see many attempts today at compromise. 


(1) From the side of science. Strictly speaking, since 
science is a fairly determinate realm of discourse and 
limited to specifiable types of meaning, it cannot compro- 
mise with religion nor embrace religion nor even utter 
significant propositions, true or false, about religion. 
Science is in essence neither religious nor irreligious, but 
non-religious. The types of meaning that constitute re- 
ligion are entirely outside its realm of discourse. There- 
fore even if there were a God or gods, he or they would 
not be scientifically discoverable. Whatever divine mani- 
festations might occur, only those aspects of them that 
fitted into scientific categories namely, only the publicly 
1 "Science and Culture," Mysticism and Logic > p. 42. 


observable aspects would be regarded by science as 
'valid observations/ and these would be observed not as 
manifestations of divine agency but as physical events 
to be somehow subsumed under the abstract structures 
of the sciences. That is to say, if the effect of divine 
agency were merely something private, like mystical 
illumination or 'the peace that passeth understanding/ 
it would not in its private character be recognized by 
science as a legitimate datum for the building of scientific 
hypotheses; whereas if such agency were effective in 
bringing about changes in the actual course of physical 
events, it is only qua physical changes having a place 
in a causal nexus, not as expressions of divinity, that 
science could legitimately recognize them. Nevertheless, 
since scientists are not necessarily good dialecticians 
not necessarily expert, that is to say, at recognizing the 
boundaries of science there have been attempts made 
from time to time by scientists to show that a concept of 
God is implied in the truths of science. But recalling the 
limitations of the scientific realm of discourse, this alleged 
implication can be shown only by committing one of 
two fallacies: either God is reduced to an identity with 
the organized totality of scientific 'laws' (or, more 
broadly, to the logical aspect of things generally), which 
reduces the statement "God exists" to a badly expressed 
tautology; or a more definite, though not usually ade- 
quate, notion of deity is upheld at the expense of confusing 
scientific with non-scientific categories. The reduction 
of God to the logical basis of all being, as in the philosophy 
of Spinoza, or to a substantial identity with all physical 
nature, as in the doctrine of pantheism , does to be sure 
define God in such a way as to put his existence beyond 
the power of refutation; but it does so only at the cost 
of dropping from the notion all recognizable and dis- 
tinctively religious, as opposed to purely logical, meaning. 


Defined in this way, therefore, the question of God's 
existence is not so much religious as partly logical (a 
question of how the word 'God' is to be used) and partly 
metaphysical (a question of how much emphasis to give 
to the logical as opposed to the ineffable, irrational, and 
paradoxical aspects of things). What is of greater specific 
interest are the attempts sometimes made by scientists 
to formulate, in the terms, as they suppose, of their 
science, more specific notions of a God. We shall consider 
three of the more prominent of such attempts. 

(i) God as First Cause. The group of physical events 
that are now occurring must have their adequate explana- 
tion in physical events preceding them, and those in still 
earlier physical events, and those in still earlier. But 
what adequate explanation can be offered for the whole 
causal nexus? It must have been started by God. 

This argument, even if valid, would evidently not 
prove much. It offers no evidence that God is at the 
present time a living reality nor that he still manifests 
himself in human experience nor that he can be communed 
with. It names him as merely the original begetter of 
everything. The resultant position, that God once started 
the universe going but that he perhaps no longer takes a 
hand in its affairs, is called deism; and it is difficult to 
see just why, in terms of man's religious needs, the posi- 
tion is worth arguing for. But more important than its 
questionable utility is the fallacious reasoning on which 
it rests. What it does is to make of God a name to gloss 
over the paradox of supposing an absolute beginning of 
things. But how did God begin? It is replied, he has 
existed from eternity. Why, then, not assign this ca- 
pacity for existing from eternity to the causal nexus itself? 
If meaningless applied to it, it is meaningless applied to 
God. The fallacy may be shown more clearly by stating 
the criticism in the form of a dilemma. Either the God 


who is postulated as a first term in the causal nexus is 
himself a physical event or combination of physical events, 
or he is not. If he is y then by the very postulate that 
required us to postulate him in the first place (namely, 
that every physical event must have a physical cause) a 
prior cause is required to explain him, and so on. If he is 
not y then by the same postulate it was wrong ever to pos- 
tulate him as a first term in the nexus. Being not physical 
he cannot be a member of any causal nexus accepted by 
physical science, nor can he be legitimately appealed to by 
science as an explanation for anything that happens in the 
physical world. 1 

(ii) In general, the fallacy of the argument from 'first 
cause' is that it offers an answer to a question that cannot 
be significantly even asked. An absolute beginning is an 
irrational notion, for every beginning that we know and 
can understand rationally is a beginning of something 
against a background of things that do not at that moment 
begin. A beginning, in other words, must be a beginning 
in time y and since time cannot be defined except in terms 
of relations between events, a beginning in time must be 
an event that has at least one other event as its predeces- 
sor. Recognition of the paradox of an absolute beginning 
has made the argument from 'first cause' less common 
today, and scientists are on the whole more disposed 
to use a variant form of it, by which God is held to be 
not an unimaginably ancient cause of the beginning of all 
things but the present cause of specific beginnings and 
small deviations observable in the causal nexus today. 
In recent science, as Chapter VII has pointed out, the 

1 It should be noticed that the scholastic argument in alleged proof of God's 
existence, developed during the Middle Ages, does not commit this fallacy. It 
is avoided by the ad hoc attribution of a unique relation between God and the 
universe creation, which is not to be identified with the relation of physical 
causality. We are, however, here concerned with arguments drawn from the 
physical sciences. And it may be remarked that it is extremely difficult to 
re-formulate this scholastic argument in currently acceptable language. 


notion of the entire physical universe as a complete 
mechanism, self-explanatory and free from^the disturb- 
ances of unexplained events, has been quietly discarded, 
and its place taken by the notion of a universe in which 
fortuitous individual events may happen, though they hap- 
pen seldom, and general 'laws' may be built up by esti- 
mating the probabilities in any given situation of enough 
events occurring in an orderly way to make the exceptions 
practically inefficacious. This change in the physicist's 
ideology is, as already shown, primarily a change in 
manner of analysis : instead of seeking a * sufficient reason ' 
for individual events at the cost of making a large number 
of ' corrections' to account for their sometimes unforeseen 
behavior, it applies the principle to statistical groups. 
But it is always possible to ask the question, How are 
variations within the groups to be explained? It is some- 
times replied that science does not properly concern itself 
with questions of this kind, that it does not explain, it 
merely describes. This, it should by now be evident, is a 
misstatement of the case: science does explain, since it fits 
its data into one kind'of intelligible structure by seeking a 
sufficient reason for them. But a 'sufficient reason* for 
science, whether in terms of relations between individual 
events or relations between statistical groups, must always 
be sought among the general type of meanings that science 
uses. Consequently, when Professor R. A. Millikan de- 
clared recently before a congress of scientists, according to 
the press, that the creation of hydrogen atoms out of 
cosmic rays in interstellar space was evidence that God 
was "still on the job," he was palpably confusing the 
meanings proper to his science with those borrowed from 
another realm. If there is evidence that hydrogen atoms 
are being created in the manner described, science may 
legitimately 'explain* this phenomenon by fitting it into 
either of two types of structure: it may regard the 


* creation" (coming-to-be) of hydrogen atoms as in every 
case having a sufficient explanation in some set of physical 
events with which it is related by some as yet undiscovered 
'law/ or it may accept the coming-to-be of hydrogen 
atoms as events the frequency of whose occurrence in a 
given situation is to be noted and correlated with some 
other variable in as accurate a mathematical relation as 
possible. Neither of these (both properly scientific) types 
of explanation is an equivalent, or anything like an equiva- 
lent, for what from a religious point of view is generally 
called 'God'; and the introduction of the word can only 
lead to a confusion of categories. 

(iii) The teleological argument. In its crudest form this 
argument states that the laws of nature imply a lawgiver. 
This is a play on the word 'law* and does not deceive 
many scientists. A more persuasive form of the argument, 
however, finds the adaptations in the world, chiefly of 
organisms to environment, an evidence that there must 
be a God who is omniscient adapter. The two foregoing 
arguments are suggested primarily by physics, but this 
one occurs through a use of the categories of biology. 
It misuses them, however. When telic categories end 
and means, and adaptation of means to end are used 
properly in biology they have a purely positivistic mean- 
ing with no implication of personhood or conscious pur- 
pose; and so far as biology inquires further into the nature 
of adaptation it can do so only by relating telic categories 
to the categories of other sciences as to chemistry, in 
the chemical analysis of tropisms, and to statistics, as in 
Darwin's explanation of partial adaptations to their en- 
vironment discoverable in organisms by reference to the 
principle of natural selection. 

In general, such arguments as these are vitiated by the 
failure of those who offer them to understand both the 


proper limits of the realm of scientific meanings and the 
nature of religion as it is accepted by those who are 
religious. The terms and categories of science can never 
imply the terms or categories or experiences of religion, 
and any attempt to make them do so is to confuse the 
two realms of discourse. What the scientific world-picture 
does imply, to anyone intelligent enough to sense its 
limitations as a world-picture, is the possibility of alterna- 
tive world-pictures, the possibility of other modes of 
interpreting experience. This much is evident from the 
general principles of dialectic, laid down in Chapter VI. 
Science cannot, however, prescribe the positive character 
of such alternative world-pictures, and more particularly 
it cannot prescribe that such world-pictures are to be 
looked for as mere extensions of its own categories. 
Dialectic can merely, as has repeatedly been pointed 
out, establish a priori possibilities; and it must be left 
to the actual having of other forms of positive experience 
to furnish the content of those possibilities. 

(2) From the side of religion. There is also another 
direction in which a compromise between the realms of 
science and religion is aimed at. Not only is it proposed to 
extend the categories of science; it is proposed much more 
frequently to diminish the usual scope of religion. There 
is a sense, doubtless, in which during the past half-century 
the scope of religion has diminished a great deal of its own 
accord. It is easy to see that religion has no longer the 
degree and extent of social influence it had in the thir- 
teenth century, or even in the seventeenth. But we are 
considering here not the shifting fortunes of religion as a 
social institution, but the theoretical question of how 
much of a function, in the face of the modern scientific 
world-view, religion can validly claim to perform. One 
of the answers to this question has been to suggest a kind 
of merger between religion and science, a partnership 


whereby it should be the function of science to direct 
our beliefs about the nature of things and the function 
of religion to administer to states of soul and give * mean- 
ing and value to life/ Such a compromise has been fre- 
quently suggested of late, and there is at least this much 
to be said for it: that if the only valid beliefs are those 
established by scientific method, then either religion must 
be reduced to this secondary function or be dropped out 
of our modern universe altogether. Why it should not 
be dropped, why the word should be retained when its 
original meaning has been dissipated, is not always made 
clear; but those who offer the compromise seem to act 
on the recognition that religion, whatever its inadequacies 
and mistakes, has had during its period of full bloom an 
importance for men and societies, in giving them a vision 
and a principle of centripetality, for which no ample 
substitute has been found. In the past (so their argument 
runs) religion has offered both a doctrine or system of 
beliefs and a way of living, and through them has given 
a meaning and value to life; nowadays, however, many 
of religion's earlier beliefs, such as a six-day creation and 
a geographically located Hell, have been proved beyond 
reasonable doubt false; while others, such as the existence 
of a personal God and the fact of personal immortality, 
have been rendered improbable by the best evidence that 
science can muster; wherefore the obvious solution is to 
effect a division of labor by assigning beliefs to the charge 
of science and 'meaning and value ' to the charge of 
religion. Or stated otherwise: religion has formerly per- 
formed the dual service of providing an explanation for 
things and organizing the spiritual needs of man; but 
since science has shown a superior ability to do the former, 
let us accept our world-picture from science and our 
spiritual quickening from religion. 

Now this apparent compromise is, if thought about 


clearly, a complete selling out by religion to science. 
Religion has by this arrangement nothing distinctive left 
to do. For the kind of emotional satisfaction that religion 
traditionally gave was an attitude tied up with certain 
beliefs about the nature of things. There are, of course, 
many forms of emotional satisfaction that are not religious 
in character. But the distinguishing character of the 
religious emotion is that it depends on and takes its nature 
from an awareness of the divine, or personal, character 
of the universe, from a feeling of union or at least of com- 
munication between the self and this divine presence, 
and from a submission to it and a feeling of humility 
before it. A distinctively religious emotion, in short, 
depends on belief, or on an ability to acquire belief, and 
would lose its actual character if the belief were lacking. 
In other words, while the world-picture offered by a 
religion is not the whole of that religion it is an indispensa- 
ble part of it in the sense that if the world-picture were 
lacking, religion would be nothing more than "morality 
tinged with emotion. " Matthew Arnold, indeed, has de- 
fined it in this way, but since, as Irving Babbitt has pointed 
out in reply, all genuine morality is in some way tinged 
with emotion, religion appears to have become, if the 
proposed compromise is accepted, a Superfluous term. 
For religion is not the kind of thing whose elements can 
be severed and apportioned at random. When religion 
flourishes they are organically related; each depends 
for its meaning largely on the others. Separated from 
belief, it is at least questionable whether the remain- 
ing elements of religion would retain anything like their 
original natures. Ritual without beliefs to give it meaning 
could be, and has recently been, justified on the ground 
that it organizes a person's emotions and orients his 
activities from day to day; but it would be at best a 
sort of spiritual calisthenics and would certainly not 


'mean the same thing' for the practitioner as a ritual 
expressive of religious beliefs. "Religion, as a mere senti- 
ment/' Cardinal Newman wrote in his Apologia, "is to me 
a dream and a mockery. As well can there be filial love 
without the fact of a father, as devotion without the fact 
of a Supreme Being." The public morality and private 
meditation, of which religion has been supposedly a safe- 
guard, might go on by habit for a time without the beliefs 
that formerly backed them up, but their continued en- 
durance would be at least doubtful. It is a persistent 
dogma of 'liberalism' to suppose that they will endure 
indefinitely by their own strength, but the claim wants 
proof, and it is at least a fertile thesis that the weakened 
recognition of public duties and the diminished tendency 
to private heart-searchings which seem to characterize 
human conduct today, are in part due to the loss of a 
unified world-view that once oriented those activities. 
No such attempts at compromise can sidetrack the main 
issue between science and religion today. The issue lies 
between a materialistic world-view, as defined in Chapter 
VII that is, an acceptance of scientific categories as 
adequate to answer our most searching questions about 
the nature of things and a personalistic world- view, 
which accepts the* categories of personhood and value as 
essential and irreducible ingredients in any recognizable 
or satisfactorily intelligible characterization of reality. 
Our modern passion for giant mergers should not pre- 
dispose us to the dogma that science and religion can be 
merged on any such terms as those suggested without, 
in effect, an abandonment of most that is distinctive 
about the latter. One way in which an intelligible and 
moderately unbiassed reconciliation can be sought is by 
a closer examination of the nature of religious belief 
and of its differences from the kind of belief we call 
scientific, and on this basis to reconsider the question, 


at a more analytic level, of how far religion and science 
are reconcilable. 


The traditional philosophic approach to the problem 
of belief has been ordinarily through an analysis of the 
proposition or doctrine that is believed, or of the state of 
affairs that is 'believed.' This aspect of a belief-situation 
may be called the belief -object. So commonly is this 
emphasis adopted that the word 'belief itself is widely 
accepted as synonymous with the belief-object. Belief, 
in this sense, can be characterized by the adjectives 
true and false; and since true and false are from one 
point of view logical contradictories, it is taken for granted 
that a given belief must be either true or false, or true in 
some specifiable respects and false in others, but when 
sufficiently analyzed not both true and false in the same 
respects. 'Belief' is sometimes used, however, to denote 
the process or manner of believing, as in the prayer 
"Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief !" where the 
primary emphasis is evidently on the state of mind of the 
believer. This subjective aspect of belief the process 
or state of believing may be called the belief -attitude. 
It is clear that the question 'what it means to believe' 
or the nature of the belief-attitude, is logically prior to 
the question 'whether the belief is true/ to the truth- 
value of the belief-object. Attempts to declare a belief 
true or false before determining in what sense the belief 
is being held are permissible in an artificial realm of dis- 
course like logic, mathematics, or the sciences, where a 
given definition of truth is agreed on for all that is 
relevant to that realm; but when extended to questions 
concerning human experience in general, such attempts 
are likely to be very much beside the point. The more 


profound questions of life cannot be settled by definition. 
There remains, after all definitions have been granted, the 
question, What possibilities of experience lie outside the 
realm of discourse so defined and to what further realities 
do they testify? Now there is among human beings a 
group of related attitudes to which the word 'belief or 
'believing* is generally applied, and it is these, as opposed 
to the objects pertinent to some one of them, that ought 
first to be examined. The examination has been often 
enough undertaken from Freudian, behaviorist, prag- 
matic, and other partisan standpoints, but each of these 
gives a one-sided and unsatisfactory account of the com- 
plex totality of mental attitudes that we sum up under 
the word 'believe/ 

Without pretending to a complete account of the state 
of mind we call believing, there do seem to be at least 
four discernible meanings. Belief may mean: 

(i) Concentration on the belief-object and an absence 
of other belief-objects tending to dissipate the concen- 
tration. Interpreting this meaning in the most elementary 
way, I believe in the presence of whatever I am actually 
experiencing. So far as I am actually experiencing it, it is 
impossible for me to do otherwise. To be sure, I can, and 
often do, withhold belief from some usual interpretation 
of the experience, which at other times when doubt was 
not present I might refer to as part of the experience 
itself. I might, for instance, be looking at the light thrown 
by a distant ship, and then in the midst of looking begin 
to doubt that what I am seeing is really a ship, and wonder 
whether it may not be a bright star just above the horizon. 
Or I might doubt whether there was any physical object 
there at all; whether I might not be deluded in supposing 
I saw anything. These questions, however, represent 
dissociations of the original experience, and do not chal- 
lenge the fact that what I am directly conscious of I must 


necessarily believe in. All that such dissociations do is 
change somewhat the character of what I am directly 
conscious of. Prior to the questioning doubts about 
what my experience signified I was directly aware in 
the usual manner of speaking of a ship's light, and con- 
sequently I believed it to be there in the sense that I 
accepted it without question. But after the possibility 
had occurred to me that it was no ship's light but a star, 
the uncritical part of my belief became limited to simply 
* a light/ and even though I still preferred the hypothesis 
of ship's light to the hypothesis of star, and no matter 
how much better established the former hypothesis might 
have become, my belief in it was no longer naive, but had 
developed into belief of the second type. 
% (ii) Secondly, belief may mean factual belief; that is, 
belief that some specific event has occurred, is occurring, 
or will occur. It is not always easy, of course, to draw a 
line between Types (i) and (ii). The general principle, 
however, is that we believe according to Type (ii) when 
we accept as true something more than the ineluctably 
given. But this 'something more* must be further 
characterized, to distinguish the present type of belief 
from Type (iii). If the event is specific there must be a 
set of conditions under which its occurrence could be 
verified. These conditions may be impossible of realiza- 
tion, which would mean that the occurrence of the 
believed-in event would not be actually verifiable. But 
we can in imagination project ourselves into an intelligible 
situation where verification would be possible, and our 
belief can be interpreted as an expectancy that if we were 
in that situation we would have direct verification of the 
event as occurring. It is a characteristic of beliefs of 
this sort that, adequately analyzed, they must be either 
true or false and not both; for the expectation in which 
they consist would be, under the imagined condition, 


either fulfilled or disappointed. A belief that it will 
rain next Wednesday, that Washington crossed the Dela- 
ware, that Mars is inhabited, that the world was created 
in six days, that my companion is enjoying his dinner, 
that my consciousness will continue after the death of 
my body these beliefs are by nature necessarily either 
true or false, though except in the case of the first we have 
either no means or only indirect means of determining 
which. Even so widely accepted a belief as that Wash- 
ington crossed the Delaware is not susceptible of veri- 
fication in the same way as my belief that it will rain 
next Wednesday. The evidence for it is circumstantial; 
for its supposed occurrence is a thing of the past, and we 
can have direct acquaintance only with its presumed 
effects, such as written accounts of it. In believing that 
my companion is enjoying his dinner my evidence is 
again but circumstantial: here the belief-object is an- 
other person's state of mind, and our evidence must be 
found in his words, gestures, and facial expressions. 
Nevertheless, these instances of belief have one thing in 
common. There is for each of them an imaginable, though 
often not realizable, situation in which if the belief were 
true an expected specific experience would be had, and if 
in such a situation the expectation were not fulfilled the 
believer would recognize that his belief had been false, 
(iii) Again, belief may mean acceptance of something 
as organizing experience or some phase of experience and 
orienting the believer with respect to it. The atom, the 
electron, man a machine, vital force, the soul, universal 
progress, and God are important examples of this type 
of belief. None of these notions is of a kind that we could 
imagine being directly and adequately verified under any 
conditions whatever, for we are unable to say what the 
nature of the conditions would have to be. We would 
not know in terms of what kind of experience to expect 


the verification, hence could not recognize it if (per 
impossible) it were to occur. Atoms have only primary 
qualities: we could never therefore see them, for we see 
only what is colored. Direct evidence for man as a com- 
plete mechanism would require an infinite intelligence to 
understand it, an intelligence capable of tracing out to 
infinity the causal nexus leading from every one of a 
man's actions: such an intelligence, however, is so far 
removed from anything we have ever known that only 
by grace of metaphor can it be called an intelligence at 
all. Universal progress could be directly known only by 
an intelligence capable of grasping past, present, and 
future history with equal immediacy and of comparing 
these by reference to a standard not defined in terms of 
any one of them: such an intelligence is again hopelessly 
removed from us. Notions like these have already been 
named ideologies unverifiable but at the same time 
irrefutable hypostatizations of method. This does not 
mean they are false, but only that they become false if 
made a synonym for all Reality. In their proper sphere 
they are 'regulative ideas/ As such they may, of course, 
be believed in, or even accepted as necessary beliefs, by 
anyone who attaches overwhelming importance to the 
method of which they are projections. 

Now my soul (or self), other people's souls (or selves) 
and the existence of a God (or gods) are similar extensions 
of experience, and to believe in any of them is to believe 
according to Sense (iii). 

As from a multitude of instinctive perceptions, acting in 
particular instances, of something beyond the senses, we 
generalize the notion of an external world, and then picture 
that world in and according to those particular phenomena from 
which we started, so from the perceptive power which identifies 
the intimations of conscience with the reverberations or echoes 
(so to say) of an external admonition, we proceed on to the 


notion of a Supreme Ruler and judge, and then again we image 
Him and His attributes in those recurring intimations, out of 
which, as mental phenomena, our recognition of His existence 
was originally gained. 1 

(iv) Belief in something, as both emotional and active 
that is to say, moral allegiance to it. To 'believe 
in' a friend or to * believe in' a social ideal that the be- 
liever is helping to push forward are beliefs of this type. 
It is evident that a belief of this type will often have the 
same belief-objects as a corresponding belief of Type 
(iii). The friend or the social ideal are not given alle- 
giance for no reason at all. In some way our belief about 
the friend's character and the nature of the social ideal 
organize some of the experiences primarily feelings and 
in the second case needs of action, but partly also some of 
the perceptions of the believer. His allegiance to them 
may be regarded as the emotive or subjective aspect of 
the way he believes in them in Sense (iii). 

What light does the foregoing analysis of belief throw 
on the issue between belief in a scientific and belief in a 
religious world- view? Belief here is evidently not used 
in Sense (i), for at the level of uncritical acceptance there 
is no possibility of discriminating, and to mistake one's 
immediate unreflective apprehensions for religious reali- 
ties is a worthless sort of obscurantism. Nor can we be- 
lieve in a scientific or religious world- view in Sense (ii), 
though certain factual beliefs will play a part in each of 
the world-views. But factual beliefs do not clash when 
they belong strictly to different realms of discourse. Thus, 
the religious world-view includes a factual belief in the 
existence of consciousness in the universe at large, and 
the scientific world-view challenges this belief; but the 
challenge does not come from any accredited factual be- 

1 Newman, Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, p. 104. 


lief sponsored by science, because the factual beliefs within 
the realm of science, since they do not employ the same 
terms as the factual beliefs entertained by religion, cannot 
by any possibility contradict them, they can merely as- 
sert facts of a generically different kind. A belief that 
a conscious deity or deities exist is not contradicted by a 
belief that a lightning flash will be followed by thunder, 
any more than the belief that I as a conscious self exist 
is contradicted by a belief that under certain conditions 
my body can be decomposed into a number of chemical 
elements. What challenges a belief in a conscious deity 
is precisely what challenges a belief in the reality of my 
own consciousness: not any factual beliefs within the 
realm of science but the method of the scientific world- 
view together with its integrating principle that there 
are no realities except those expressible in terms of phys- 
ical categories. 

It is to the third meaning of belief, then, (and the fourth 
in that it gives an emotional and pragmatic content to the 
intellectual acceptances of Type (iii)) that we must turn 
for an understanding of what the conflict between science 
and religion most profoundly means. The issue has al- 
ready been stated in terms of the two world-views them- 
selves; we may now offer a restatement in terms of what 
it means to 'believe in' either of them. To 'believe in' 
the scientific world-view is to accept naturalistic categories 
such as space, time, number, cause, and adaptation as a 
sufficient means of integrating our experiences, and there- 
fore as alone 'real.' To 'believe in' the religious world- 
view, on the other hand, is to accept the categories of 
personhood and divinity (whether applied to one God or 
several) as the most important categories for integrating 
our experiences and orienting ourselves with respect to 
them, and therefore as the most fundamentally real. The 
issue between science and religion thus becomes an issue 


between opposed allegiances, intellectual, emotive, and 
moral; an issue, therefore, for which coercive proof or 
disproof on either side is dialectically impossible. 

We may now return to the scientific objections to a 
religious world-view mentioned in Section 2 and consider 
whether in view of the foregoing analysis of belief their 
validity in turn may be criticized. Laplace's remark, 
"Sire, I have no need of that hypothesis/' gives the whole 
matter away. It tells us nothing about God, which was 
the hypothesis he had no need of; it tells us only some- 
thing we already knew about the method of science 
that it has no use for hypotheses that are not formulated 
in terms of its own realm of discourse. By this applica- 
tion of the Principle of Parsimony nineteenth century 
science supposed it had justified atheism. But now in the 
twentieth century the attempt to use that principle as 
used in science, for the extra-scientific purpose of defining 
reality has reached a reductio ad absurdum in the behav- 
iorist's denial of mind, consciousness, human personhood. 
Thus, amusingly enough, an indirect effect of dogmatic 
behaviorism has been to knock the props out from under 
nineteenth century atheism. For what it shows is that if 
the scientific method is carried through consistently it 
leaves no room not only for God but for human persons 
and indeed for everything else that is not strictly expressi- 
ble in terms of relations between physical events. We 
are told nothing about the nature of persons nor of God 
nor of reality, but only about the nature of science. A 
materialistic Total Synthesis is simply a misapplication of 
the scientific principle of parsimony to an attempted 
definition of reality at large. Science cannot properly 
say that God does not exist, but only that, like human 
consciousnesses and values and all kinds of ephemeral 
qualities, God has no place in the theoretical structure 


built up by science. This tells us, about God, only that 
we cannot go to science for a knowledge of him. 

But secondly, it is objected that even if we step outside 
of strictly scientific categories and admit the existence 
of other conscious beings, there are no disembodied per- 
sons. Consciousness depends on the brain and nervous 
system and exists therefore only where there is a live 
functioning human organism. To this it may be replied 
that while there seems to be good evidence of important 
connections between consciousness and specific activities 
of a physical organism, it is impossible that science should 
ever state exactly what that connection is. An exact 
correlation between two series can be stated only when 
both series are reducible to homogeneous units; but it 
is just because consciousness as we directly experience it 
is not so reducible that science ignores it and considers in- 
stead the activities of the body. Any attempt to prove the 
complete dependence of consciousness on neural activity 
is question-begging. We do not first believe other persons 
to be conscious because of the analogy of their bodies to 
our own still less because their brains (which we have 
doubtless never seen) are functioning in a manner like 
ours. This is merely a later justification. We know them 
first simply through communion with them, as a child 
might equally well commune with a variety of other ob- 
jects which adults have agreed to consider insentient. 
What conclusive argument then can be offered against 
attaching objective validity to the experience of commun- 
ing with God? 

It is replied, such communion is explainable neurolog- 
ically. Of course it is. So is communion with other 
human persons, yet we believe them real; so is belief in 
anything in the existence of a stone or in the truth of 
a mathematical equation. So is a belief in materialism 
itself. If the fact that believing is neurologically con- 


ditioned is brought in, then all beliefs must be treated as 
activities of the body of the believer and the problem 
of the truth of belief-objects would have to be dropped. 
But since this physiological explanation is itself an object 
of belief, that reduction is manifestly absurd. Still, the 
objector might continue, a religious experience is con- 
ditioned by a greater degree of visceral disturbance than 
belief in the existence of a stone which I see or in the 
truth of a mathematical equation. In these latter the 
activity is mainly laryngeal (movements in the throat 
and head) together, in the case of the stone, with a dis- 
turbance of the visual organs. But what a priori ground 
is there for ascribing objective truth to the experiences 
generated by larynx and optical nerve and not to those 
generated by viscera? The only evident ground is prag- 
matic. Optical nerves and larynxes work more in unison 
and the resultant experiences are more readily communi- 
cable, and can thus achieve a more standardized and 
workable objectivity. And this may be one reason why 
the core of religion seems often to be mystical; people's 
viscera do not work in unison, and the resulting experi- 
ences are in essence incommunicable. Perhaps religions 
flourish when, through an established ritual, such a unison 
is more nearly approached. Today, and periodically, 
genuine religion is in large measure driven to solitude. 
But whether public or private, the physiological conditions 
of believing do not explain the belief-object away. 

The demonstration of the possibility of disembodied 
consciousness does not of course prove that there is in fact 
disembodied consciousness. In many religions the dis- 
embodied consciousness referred to is only that of a God 
or gods of a wholly supernatural order; but others con- 
tain also a belief in human immortality. The question 
of human immortality is often obscured by a series of 
metaphors. 'Deathless reputation' may be one kind of 


immortality, and one that certain individuals have ap- 
parently achieved though it is hardly correct to say 
that individuals have achieved it. The hope for enduring 
reputation may have sustained them in carrying out their 
plans while they were living; but for them it could have 
no more meaning after they were dead. If immortality 
means only continued reputation, then, it is not a doctrine 
that says something about individual human beings, but 
merely one that points to a social fact about certain 
habits of thought the respect for spectacular historical 
characters which seem to be fairly stable over a con- 
siderable period of time. Nor, from the standpoint of the 
individual, is the so-called 'immortality of the germ- 
plasm' more than a doubtful metaphor. It amounts 
to the endurance of something physical, which by the 
principle of the conservation of mass is in any case postu- 
lated of the elements of the entire organism; and a certain 
sympathy, while alive, with one's imagined descendants. 
For the individual, immortality must mean an immor- 
tality of the self, and the self must remain a self, that is, 
must continue to possess the major characteristics of a 
self discussed at the end of Chapter IX. And especially, 
it must include conscious memory, without which it 
would be meaningless to say that the same self endured. 
Belief in immortality thus differs generically from belief 
in God through being primarily of Type (ii), a factual 
belief. There is a specific imaginable situation in which, 
if immortality is true, we shall be able to specifically 
verify it. But the belief in immortality has an unusual 
status: for if it is false, we shall not, even imaginably, 
be able to verify its falsity. 


There has been established only the logical possibility 
of a religious world-view. Granted the possibility, dia- 


lectic has not, and cannot of itself give any definite 
content to religion, nor establish the truth of one or 
another particular religion. And, in general, no purely 
rational method is sufficient. All particular religions have 
been based, however indirectly, at least partially on the 
form of non-rational intuition called 'mystic* if not in 
the case of individual believers, then through the founders, 
who are often identified with the divine in the mystery of 
Incarnation. But this raises the serious though not sur- 
prising difficulty that non-rational intuitions often con- 
flict. Writing, from the analysis of the individual mystic, 
about what warrant of truth mystic intuition confers, 
William James declares: 

(1) Mystical states, when well developed, usually are, and 
have the right to be, absolutely authoritative over the in- 
dividuals to whom they come. 

(2) No authority emanates from them which should make 
it a duty for those who stand outside of them to accept their 
revelations uncritically. 

(3) They break down the authority of the non-mystical or 
rationalistic consciousness, based upon the understanding and 
the senses alone. They show it to be only one kind of conscious- 
ness. They open out the possibility of other orders of truth, in 
which, so far as anything in us vitally responds to them, we may 
freely continue to have faith. 1 

Thus, though mystic intuition may be a satisfactory 
basis for the religions of single individuals, it alone cannot 
provide sufficient content for a religion extended to large 
social groups; and, indeed, many individuals find a religion 
based solely on intuition, because of its non-rational char- 
acter, and because of the undependability of mystic ex- 
periences and even in most cases the impossibility of 
achieving them, inadequate to their religious needs. 
Consequently organized religions have always codified 

1 Varieties of Religious Experience, pp. 422-3. 


intuitions in a systematic body of ritual, and dogmatic 
theology more or less rational in character. For many 
people, as a result, religion becomes an automatic accept- 
ance of beliefs handed down by parents and social en- 
vironment generally; and is thus removed from critical 
discussion. But the ritual, and the intellectual tradition 
of the religion, become in their turn aids to the individual 
in approaching communion with the divine. 

Nevertheless, there has never been a literally world 
religion, never one accepted even by a majority of men. 
And, however much religions may resemble each other in 
the general nature of the attitudes which they assert 
toward reality, their specific beliefs have differed. Is 
there, for example, one God, or many gods? The develop- 
ment of what we call civilization seems often to tend 
toward monism, in other fields as well as religion; but 
historically polytheistic religions have been as promi- 
nent, and from some points of view might seem better 
able to explain the diversity of experience. Traditional 
Christianity has to some extent been a compromise with 
polytheism. God has been actively opposed by another 
at least near-God, Satan; and the doctrines of the Trinity 
and the Communion of Saints are hardly straightforward 

And many of the other than numerical alleged attributes 
of divinity are impossible to understand rationally. This, 
as we have seen, is true also of the fundamental terms 
in any realm of discourse, but we notice the difficulty 
more in the case of God, who is presumably a person, 
than in the case of electrons or transcendental numbers. 
Omniscience, infiniteness, omnipotence, these are attri- 
butes not simply of such a nature that we cannot grasp 
them imaginatively; they seem, through the lack of any 
limitation that they imply, to contradict the very notion 
we have of a self or a person, which gets meaning pre- 


cisely through limitation. It is not an accident that those 
who accept the religious attitude must at times pray: 
"I thank thee, O Father! Lord of heaven and earth, 
that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, 
and hast revealed them unto babes " (Luke X, 21). 

Again, as to the moral attributes of divinity. The 
religious problem suggested by the undeniable presence 
of evil in the world has usually been thought to involve a 
reconciliation of evil with the being of a good God. But 
there is a prior question, namely whether the divine 
is, according to any standards we may form, good. There 
can be no a 'priori certainty that if there is a God he is 
necessarily good. If he were not, it is sometimes said, 
we should not worship him. But this^does not seem to 
follow. Historically, subjects have often approximated 
worship of sovereigns Nero, Ivan the Terrible, Na- 
poleon who were anything but good from the subjects' 
standards. The moral irregularities of the Greek gods 
are not to be explained away as expressions of the Greeks' 
own sensual natures: in pre-Periclean Greece, the wor- 
shippers viewed their gods as at a quite different moral 
level from themselves. And granted divine goodness, 
existing evil must as a rule be explained whether by 
assigning it to man's wanton free will or the intractability 
of matter only in something of the same way that an 
experimental deviation from the conservation of mass is 
explained: because it must be explained, because the pos- 
tulate requires it. 

There is little that we can prove. And perhaps the chief 
result of an inquiry into the nature of religion, as of any 
other philosophical inquiry, is to show us how very little 
we know, and are likely to know. Intellectual humility 
is not so much the beginning as the end of knowledge. 



Running through the life of individual human beings, 
and the known history of the human race, is what is 
sometimes called 'the esthetic experience/ This type of 
experience is associated with things of 'natural beauty' 
mountains, sunsets, lakes, starry nights; but par- 
ticularly with 'works of art* music, statues, paintings, 
poems. In the former, only one person is involved, unless 
we accept the view that God is personally responsible 
for the beauty of nature. In the latter another person 
or other persons (the artist or artists) has intervened. 
It is, however, unwise to limit the esthetic experience too 
definitely to things that have been, by custom or au- 
thority, labelled 'beautiful/ It is a mistake to suppose 
that the esthetic experience is sharply separated from 
'life'; it may result through a re-grouping of almost 
any elements of experience, however familiar, on ordinary 
occasions, these may be. Most people have from time to 
time what may be termed rudimentary esthetic experi- 
ences; and in its more developed forms the esthetic 
experience has been regarded as among the highest of 
those ends which we may both seek and achieve. As in 
the case of religion, however, philosophy cannot give any 
content to the esthetic, though it may establish its a 
priori validity, and suggest something of its relation to 
the rest of experience. 

We may begin by considering, roughly, the recognizable 
characteristics of experience as it approaches the esthetic. 
In this we do not have to rely solely on our own direct 



knowledge; poets, artists, and critics have left careful 
and sensitive records. First, we may say that the value 
of an esthetic experience is intrinsic; this is by definition, 
however we may later, in whatever terms, come to in- 
terpret it. 

No voice from some sublimer world hath ever 

To sage or poet these responses given 

Therefore the names of Demon, Ghost, and Heaven, 
Remain the records of their vain endeavour, 
Frail spells whose uttered charm might not avail to sever, 

From all we hear and all we see, 

Doubt, chance, and mutability. 
Thy light alone like mist o'er mountains driven, 

Or music by the night-wind sent 

Through strings of some still instrument, 

Or moonlight on a midnight stream, 
Gives grace and truth to life's unquiet dream. 1 

That is, the esthetic experience needs no exterior justi- 
fication; we do not require that it should lead to other 
desirable results outside itself, as we should in the case 
of brushing our teeth or working as a clerk in an office; 
it is a self-contained end. Of course this does not mean 
that in fact the esthetic experience does not lead to other 
desirable results, which is a question for another and 
a different kind of investigation. Hearing a symphony 
may make us a better conversationalist, may have a good 
physiological effect, may increase our general sensitivity 
and emotional balance; but the esthetic significance is 
to be found within the hearing of the symphony, in spite 
of the perhaps great importance of the subsidiary effects. 
In this the esthetic experience resembles the mystical 
experience. But the reference of the mystical experience 
is always beyond sense, a denial of the senses, a nothing- 
ness from the point of view of the senses; whereas the 

1 Shelley, Hymn to Intellectual Beauty. 


esthetic experience is always bound up with the senses, 
always through the senses. 

Further, there is usually noted the detachment and 
objectivity of the esthetic experience, and this is no 
doubt connected with what Aristotle called a catharsis, 
or purging of the emotions. Even in the most elementary 
esthetic experience this detachment may be discovered; 
when the mind rests, even casually, on a 'beautiful 
object/ we feel a momentary quieting of restlessness and 
desire, a loss of the acute consciousness of self which 
accompanies so many of our activities. 

Here the bleak mount, 

The bare bleak mountain speckled thin with sheep; 
Grey clouds, that shadowing spot the sunny fields; 
And river, now with bushy rocks o'er-brow'd, 
Now winding bright and full, with naked banks; 
And seats, and lawns, the Abbey and the wood, 
And cots, and hamlets, and faint city-spire; 
The Channel there, the Islands and white sails, 
Dim coasts, and cloud-like hills, and shoreless Ocean 
It seem'd like Omnipresence! God, methought, 
Had built him there a Temple: the whole World 
Seem'd imaged in its vast circumference: 
No wish profan'd my overwhelmed heart. 
Blest hour! It was a luxury, to be! l 

Sitting on a bank, 

Weeping again the kind my father's wrack, 
This music crept by me upon the waters, 
Allaying both their fury, and my passion, 
With its sweet air: . . . 2 

Moreover, what we know through esthetic experiences 
(if we can properly be said to know anything through 

1 Coleridge, Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement. Italics the 

* The Tempest, I, ii, 387-91. 


them) does not have to fit into the elaborate external 
structure of most types of knowledge. Our knowledge of 
a physical 'fact/ for instance, must fit into the whole 
theoretic structure of physical knowledge, must not be 
logically contradictory within that structure. Esthetic 
experience is of course related to the rest of experience, 
and naturally derives its meaning in large part from these 
relations. Nevertheless, its esthetic validity is not de- 
pendent on the logical rigidity of its relations. This 
fact is responsible for a good deal of confusion: We find 
for example, that words in a poem, interpreted as a factual 
proposition, contradict accepted factual knowledge. This 
leads to conflicting theories: some deprecating the poem 
on this account, others maintaining that the poem reveals 
a truer truth and a more real reality, still others arguing 
that in reading a poem we must 'suspend' our customary 
beliefs, treat them as irrelevant. None of these theories, 
as we shall see indirectly, is necessary; though the last is 
no doubt the most satisfactory of the three. 


Because of the non-logical (not, it should be remarked, 
illogical) character of the esthetic experience, it lends it- 
self readily to reductions of the sort we have studied in 
so many other connections. These reductions are aided 
by the difficulty of saying very much about esthetic 
experiences on their own plane, a difficulty which follows 
precisely from the fact that the value of esthetic experi- 
ences lies in their saying (whether with words, colors, 
sounds, shapes) what cannot otherwise be said that is, 
what cannot be put into the formula language of some 
logically arranged realm of discourse. Thus we get more 
and less pretentious 'sciences' of 'esthetics.' With the 
help of these reductions criteria for judging art and 


beauty are derived. Now each reduction, if made at all 
intelligently, is partly true: from one aspect of esthetic 
experiences or one class of esthetic experiences, the 
'implications* are 'drawn out/ and a rigid system is 
constructed. This system will be, to a limited extent, 
applicable to those aspects from which it is built; but 
that it should be universally applicable is from the very 
nature of the esthetic experience impossible. In outlining 
some of the major reductions, therefore, there will in each 
case be mentioned works of art and in some cases poetry 
will be quoted, to illustrate the types of esthetic experi- 
ence from which each may be thought to have been de- 
rived, and to which each is, within limits, relevant. 

(1) History, sociology, anthropology. This reduction, 
together with (2) is ordinarily made in the teaching of 
literature and the arts. Art, the students are told, is 
'the expression of an age'; it cannot be understood apart 
from the 'social background/ from the 'civilization' or 
'culture* of which it is a part. Historical texts on politics, 
wars, governments, economics, are read along with the 
study of the works of art. Then, as the reduction (which 
is so far unassailable) deepens, art becomes a mere ap- 
pendage of history and cultural reconstruction. Homer 
is read because he "sums up the late Minoan civilization "; 
the decadent Greek temples and statues of the fourth and 
third centuries mark the breakup of the firm city-states; 
Dante synthesizes the life of the Middle Ages; Chaucer 

Ther was also a Nonne, a Prioresse, 

That of hir smyling was ful simple and coy; 

Hir gretteste ooth was but by seynt Loy; 

And she was cleped madame Eglentyne. 

Ful wel she song the service divyne, 

En tuned in hir nose ful semely; 

And Frensh she spak ful faire and fetisly, 

After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe, 


For Frensh of Paris was to hir unknowe. 
At mete wel y-taught was she with-alle; 
She leet no morsel from hir lippes falle, 
Ne wette hir fingres in hir sauce depe l 

was the first 'realistic' English poet, depicting faithfully 
the customs and people of his time; the luxuries of the 
Italian Renaissance cities are portrayed by the Renais- 
sance painters; "The Waste Land shows the collapse of 
Europe after the World War. This reduction is par- 
ticularly appropriate to works of art on a grand scale, 
such as epics, or perhaps in another way great buildings. 
When it is made, the ability of the artist to synthesize the 
cultural movements of his time becomes the test of the 
excellence of his achievement. 

(2) Autobiography. This reduction is also usual in the 
academic handling of works of art. Art 'reveals the 
personality' of the artist. Dante's love for Beatrice is 
the subject of The Divine Comedy; the turmoils of Michel- 
angelo's soul are painted on the ceiling and walls of the 
Sistine Chapel; Shelley's trembling, ethereal confusions 
of spirit are his poems 

Her presence had made weak and tame 

All passions, and I lived alone 

In the time which is our own; 

The past and future were forgot, 

As they had been, and would be, not. 

But soon, the guardian angel gone, 

The daemon reassumed his throne 

In my faint heart. I dare not speak 

My thoughts, but thus disturbed and weak 

I sat and saw the vessels glide 

Over the ocean bright and wide, 

Like spirit-winged chariots sent 

O'er some serenest element. . . . 2 

* Prologue, 11. 119-129. * From Lines Written in the Bay of Lerici. 


Wagner's love for Wesendonk is the music of Tristan und 
Isolde. This approach grows, probably, from a too ex- 
clusive preoccupation with 'romantic' art; and its in- 
appropriateness to many works of art becomes evident 
from some of the studies of the soul and personality of, 
say, Shakespeare, made on the basis of his plays. It 
provides another criterion for art and beauty: the ex- 
cellences of works of art are due to the excellence of the 
person who created them and who 'expresses' himself 
through them. Even natural beauty can be brought in, 
for it becomes an expression of the Divine Nature: 

So my friend 

Struck with deep joy may stand, as I have stood, 
Silent with swimming sense; yea, gazing round 
On the wide landscape, gaze till all doth seem 
Less gross than bodily; and of such hues 
As veil the Almighty Spirit, when yet he makes 
Spirits perceive his presence. 1 

(3) Morality. This reduction by which is meant 
the interpretation of art in the terms of a conventional 
code of morality is not much in favor at the present 
time, perhaps largely because conventional codes of 
morality have collapsed, but it has appeared and re-ap- 
peared throughout the history of esthetic criticism. Ac- 
cording to it the artist becomes teacher, showing man 
through a medium more pleasing than the harsh strictures 
of prophets and priests what he ought to do. Sometimes, 
as with Plato, he is the servant of the state, whose business 
it is to elaborate attractive myths promoting social order. 
Often (as also in some dialogues of Plato) he is divinely 
inspired, and can teach justly on his own account. 

For conclusion, I say the Philosopher teacheth, but he 
teacheth obscurely, so as the learned onely can vnderstande 

* Coleridge, from This Lime Tree Bower My Prison. 


him, that is to say, he teacheth them that are already taught; 
but the Poet is the foode for the tenderest stomacks, the Poet is 
indeed the right Popular Philosopher, whereof Esops tales giue 
good proofe: whose pretty Allegories, stealing vnder the formall 
tales of Beastes, make many, more beastly then Beasts, begin 
to heare the sound of vertue from these dumbe speakers. . . , 
For indeede Poetrie euer setteth vertue so out in her best 
cullours, making Fortune her wel-wayting hand-mayd, that 
one must needs be enamored of her. 1 

Well, I will scourge those apes, 
And to these courteous eyes oppose a mirror, 
As large as is the stage whereon we act, 
Where they shall see the time's deformity 
Anatomized in every nerve, and sinew, 
With constant courage, and contempt of fear. 2 

... it exceeds all imagination to conceive what would have 
been the moral condition of the world if neither Dante, Petrarch, 
Boccaccio, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Calderon, Lord Bacon, nor 
Milton, had ever existed; if Raphael and Michael Angelo had 
never been born; ... if no monuments of ancient sculpture 
had been handed down to us. ... Poetry is indeed something 
divine. It is at once the centre and circumference of all knowl- 
edge. ... A poet, as he is the author to others of the highest 
wisdom, pleasure, virtue, and glory, so he ought personally to 
be the happiest, the best, the wisest, and the most illustrious of 
men. . . . the greatest poets have been men of the most spot- 
less virtue. . . . 3 

(4) Metaphysics. By this reduction is meant roughly 
the interpretation of art as the revealer of ' the universal/ 
'the typical/ 'truth/ 'the ideal/ 'Nature/ etc. It is 
particularly appropiate to art which is called 'classical/ 
and was in fact introduced by Aristotle (with psychological 
doctrines), writing on Greek tragedy. 

1 Sidney, from An Apologiefor Poetrie. 

* Jonson, Induction to Every Man out of His Humour. 

8 Shelley, from A Defence of Poetry. 


The essential distinction lies in this, that the Historian relates 
what has happened, and the Poet represents what might happen 
what is typical. Poetry, therefore, is something more 
philosophic and of a higher seriousness than History; for 
Poetry tends rather to express what is universal, whereas 
History relates particular events as such. 1 

Wherever I went, I found that poetry was considered as the 
highest learning. . . . The business of a poet is to examine, not 
the individual, but the species; to remark general properties and 
large appearances. . . . He must divest himself of the preju- 
dices of his age and country; he must consider right and wrong 
in their abstracted and invariable state; he must disregard 
present laws and opinions, and rise to general and transcen- 
dental truths, which will always be the same. ... He must 
write as the interpreter of nature. . . . 2 

In the esthetical mode of contemplation we have . . . the 
knowledge of the object, not as individual thing but as Platonic 
Idea . . ., as pure contemplation, as sinking oneself in percep- 
tion, losing oneself in the object, forgetting all individuality. . . , 8 

Verbally similar doctrines of the 'imitation of Nature* 
("First follow Nature, and your judgment frame/By her 
just standard, which is still the same" Pope, An Essay 
on Criticism) have continued since Aristotle, conveniently 
shifting their meaning as the meaning of 'Nature* shifted. 
And Keats' "Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty . . ." has 
remained unusually amenable to critical juggling. 

Two criteria for judging works of art are derived from 
different emphases in this reduction. The first, and more 
gross, is ' width of appeal/ a test elaborated by Tolstoi in 
his famous book on esthetics, What is Art? It is argued: 
since art expresses the general, the typical, the universal, 
what is fundamental and common to all men, the greatest 

1 Aristotle, Poetics. 

2 Johnson, Rasselas. 

* Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Idea. 


art will be valued by all men. The illicit assumptions 
lying back of such a quantitative standard are similar to 
those met with in the utilitarian conception of morality, 
and are too evident to need analysis. But a second 
standard, also quantitative, is more subtle, and has been 
and is accepted by many people who think about the 
esthetic experience. This is the * test of time/ the appeal 
to the 'judgment of posterity/ The Platonic Idea, the 
universal, the fundamental in human nature, are not 
subject to the constant change of the world of becoming, 
are independent of time; and consequently art, whose 
business is with them, is likewise independent of time. 
Its value endures forever; and, obscured by contemporary 
preoccupation with temporal changes, only gradually 
emerges with the centuries. This view is given plausibility 
by the fact that what most people hold to be the greatest 
works of art were created a long while ago, and it seems 
to follow that we are making a significant statement when 
we say that they are great because they have lasted, or 
even that what makes them last is their artistic greatness. 
It is undoubtedly a fact of the greatest importance for 
the understanding of esthetic experiences that great works 
of art of a certain kind do last. But that this fact should 
be adopted as the exclusive or even as a very significant 
criterion of the value of works of art a few moments of 
reflection should make us doubt. We might consider, for 
instance, the many works of art that have not lasted 
in spite of great contemporary value, simply because they 
utilized as material meanings no longer accessible to us; 
or the many time-tested works of art now of great value, 
which during intervening years were completely neglected 
(Homer, archaic Greek sculpture, Byzantine art). We 
might remember certain causes contributing to the preser- 
vation of and continued interest in many works of art: 
grammatical illustration (Sophocles, Horace), philological 


research (Beowulf, most medieval literature), moral ac- 
ceptability (Dante, Spenser, Milton), historical research 
and pedagogical adaptability (passim). Or again, we 
might notice the natural hesitancy of critics to make 
decisive judgments and their eagerness to palm them off 
on time. Still more strikingly, we might reflect on how 
verbalized and shallow a convention is most of our 
interest in past art; and how much (even for the in- 
telligent, sensitive, and learned critic) we must inevitably 
miss of the value that works of art had to their contempo- 
raries (outstandingly, perhaps, with religious art, primi- 
tive, Greek, or medieval). And, finally, we frame our 
standards of what is great art chiefly by studying those 
works of the past that have endured; to declare that the 
great works of the past have endured is therefore based on 
circular reasoning, and is in large part tautologous. 

(6) Technique. The reduction of the esthetic experi- 
ence to 'formal' characteristics, to the 'exploitation of a 
medium' has seldom extended beyond certain groups of 
practising artists and specialized critics. Its elementary 
forms are, however, to be found in ordinary methods of 
scanning verse, in the textbook classifications of different 
metres, in the triangles and pyramids into which pictures 
are divided, the planes and surfaces of statues, the mathe- 
matics of musical relations. Carried further, technical 
agility becomes the criterion of esthetic value. 'Perfect' 
metres, stanza forms, designs, proportions, sizes, are dis- 
covered. Lack of order, false rhymes, formlessness, dis- 
cords, etc. all come to mean failure to conform to some 
abstractly preconceived mechanical standard, and are 
the most serious blemishes. The extreme of this reduction 
is probably near what is meant by art pur or 'Art for 
Art's sake' slogans. 

(6) Psychology. The interpretation of the esthetic 
experience through various systems of psychology is one 


of the most popular at the present time, and one of the 
most valuable though often it seems to throw light 
rather on psychology than on esthetics. It possesses the 
advantages of inclusiveness, and is able to assimilate with 
some degree of plausibility all the other reductions. For the 
truth is that anything whatsoever may be handled from a 
psychological point of view: i.e., as 'ideas in the mind* 
or 'mental events'; or, for a behavioristic-physiological 
psychology, as ' conditions of the organism,' of the nervous 
and glandular systems. But this inclusiveness is, in the 
end, destructive; for it leaves us with 'nothing but' 
mental or neural events, and the possibilities of intelligible 
discourse are restricted to psychology itself. 

Psychological reductions do not usually, however, go 
the whole way. They remain within the Cartesian dual- 
ism, postulating a 'real' world of matter or basic physical 
units opposed to another world of conscious events. The 
esthetic experience becomes, then, the stimulation of 
certain conscious events and a certain condition of the 
organism by means, ultimately, of the causal operation 
of events among the physical units. The esthetic experi- 
ence "does not teach us anything about reality"; it 
simply brings about a certain state of nerves, glands, and 
feelings. The value of the esthetic experience results 
because this state is beneficial to the organism. Indeed, 
the esthetic experience, by this last criterion, is justified 
from the point of view of evolution: it is helpful for sur- 
vival, and natural selection has therefore allowed it to 

(i) Pleasure. Usual forms of the psychological reduc- 
tion are those which identify the beautiful with what is 
'pleasing to the senses' (in the medieval formulation this 
was often restricted to 'pleasing to the eye'). The esthetic 
experience is the experience of pleasure. The general 
objections, mentioned in Chapter X, to the utilitarian 


identification of the good and pleasure apply here equally 
well: either this doctrine is demonstrably false, or the 
meaning of 'pleasure* has been so extended that it is 
quite useless in a critical discussion. How can we compare 
the pleasure of witnessing a Shakespearean tragedy with 
that of witnessing a contemporary comedy of manners; 
or looking at a Greek statue with looking at a statue by 
Brancusi; or looking at a painting by Giotto with look- 
ing at a painting by Hogarth; or listening to a Mozart 
minuet with listening to Stravinsky's Sacre du Printemps? 
and particularly how can we compare the pleasures derived 
from the various arts? Moreover, though it is certainly 
true that what we should call pleasures of different kinds 
are ingredients of esthetic experiences, they are seldom 
the conscious end which we pursue; and though they 
may accompany the experience, they are seldom thought 
of until afterwards. 

Nevertheless, when intelligently stated, pleasure doc- 
trines do provide a rough working distinction that is 
useful in connection with certain critical problems. 

Poetry is not the proper antithesis to prose, but to science. 
Poetry is opposed to science, and prose to metre. The proper 
and immediate object of science is the acquirement, or com- 
munication, of truth; the proper and immediate object of poetry 
is the communication of immediate pleasure. 1 

(ii) Emotion. A cruder form of psychological reduction 
is found in the separation of 'intellect* and 'emotion/ 
and the belief that it is the business of art to stimulate 
the emotions. This doctrine is associated with 'divine 
madness' theories, and grows out of a preoccupation 
with 'romantic' works of art, especially those of the early 
nineteenth century. It results in a strained 'division of 
faculties/ and the exclusion of esthetic experiences (Greek 

1 Coleridge, Lectures on Shakespeare. 


temples, Jonson, Pope, Bach, Uccello, etc.) that might 
seem, on other grounds, to be of great value. 

(iii) The esthetic emotion. Finding difficulties in the 
usual pleasure and emotion reductions, some recent critics 
(Roger Fry and Clive Bell are the most conspicuous) 
have postulated in a somewhat transcendental manner 
a 'specific esthetic emotion/ met with in the esthetic 
experience, and nowhere else. "The starting-point for 
all systems of esthetics must be the personal experience 
of a peculiar emotion. The objects that provoke this 
emotion we call works of art. All sensitive people agree 
that there is a peculiar emotion provoked by works of 
art. . . . This emotion is called the esthetic emotion. " l 
Now there is doubtless much in the esthetic experience 
which suggests the presence of something unique. And 
if we understand by 'esthetic emotion* a methodological 
symbol focussing our attention on esthetic problems, there 
is no objection. But if we isolate and hypostatize this 
emotion to a state divorced from all the rest of experi- 
ence, there is no longer very much to talk about. 

Who walked between the violet and the violet 

Who walked between 

The various ranks of varied green 

Going in white and blue, in Mary's colour^ 

Talking of trivial things 

In ignorance and in knowledge of eternal dolour 

Who moved among the others as they walked, 

Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs 

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand 
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary's colour, . . , 2 

Analysis of these lines is extremely difficult, and the ex- 
perience of reading them does seem to involve an emotion 

1 Clive Bell, Art^ pp. 6-7. Mr. Bell goes on to connect his specific emotion 
with a. specific quality which he calls 'significant form.' 
a T. S. Eliot, from Ash Wednesday. 


so unique and specific as to be scarcely related to emotions 
we more ordinarily encounter. 

(iv) Psychoanalysis. The various forms of psycho- 
analysis have suggested new * explanations ' for the esthetic 
experience. Art is an 'escape from reality/ from the 
points of view both of the artist and the spectator or 
reader. Life is too much for us; impulses and desires, 
held fast by the Censor within the veil of the unconscious, 
and disturbing indirectly the course of our activities, are 
released through art, and we thus find emotional com- 
pensation. Art is thus a form of insanity. Freud has 
written an illustrative interpretation of Leonardo da Vinci 
along these lines. Jung adds to this theory a 'collective 
unconscious/ an unconscious of the race, which also is 
released in art, and accounts for the strange recurring 
myths and symbols. These theories undoubtedly cover 
many easily discernible phenomena. Artists often have 
what anthropologists call 'primitive minds'; moreover 
they often do not get on well with other people or in 
managing practical affairs. Again, the novels selling best 
among people of small means usually deal with the rich 
and aristocratic; and the gratuitous satisfaction which 
otherwise 'moral' people get out of sexual irregularities 
in books or pictures is sufficiently obvious. Invalids, old 
maids, business 'failures/ 'repressed* people of all sorts 
usually give more time to both natural beauty and art 
than normal people do. 

(v) Synesthesis. In an effort to group together the 
various psychological approaches begun by Aristotle's 
theory of a catharsis or purging of pity and terror through 
tragedy, there has recently been put forward the notion 
of ' synesthesis.' In theory the explanation of synesthesis 
should be given in physiological terms. If we think of 
nervous impulses divided into appetencies and aversions, 
we may (reducing value to physiology) say that "anything 


is valuable which will satisfy an appetency without involv- 
ing the frustration of some equal or more important [the 
question-begging adjective is not without interest] appe- 
tency." 1 Synesthesis is then that physiological condition 
of the organism in which the maximum number of appe- 
tencies are satisfied, and the minimum thwarted, thus pro- 
ducing a general state of equilibrium and balance. This 
condition the esthetic experience has the power of bringing 

As we realise beauty [i.e. as we approach synesthesis] we 
become more fully ourselves the more our impulses are engaged. 
If, as is sometimes alleged, we are the whole complex of our 
impulses, this fact would explain itself. Our interest is not 
canalised in one direction rather than in another. It becomes 
ready instead to take any direction we choose. This is the 
explanation of that detachment so often mentioned in artistic 
experience. 2 

The notion, according to the authors of the book just 
quoted from, is related to Chinese doctrines developed 
in the Chung Yung, from which they quote. 

My master the celebrated Chang says: "Having no leanings 
is called Chung, admitting of no change is called Yung. By 
Chung is denoted Equilibrium; Yung is the fixed principle 
regulating everything under heaven. . . . 

When anger, sorrow, joy, pleasure are in being but are not 
manifested, the mind may be said to be in a state of Equilibrium; 
when the feelings are stirred and co-operate in due degree the 
mind may be said to be in a state of Harmony. Equilibrium is 
the great principle. 

If both Equilibrium and Harmony exist everything will oc- 
cupy its proper place and all things will be nourished and 
flourish. 3 

1 I. A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism, p. 48. 

2 The Foundations of Aesthetics, by C. K. Ogden, I. A. Richards, and James 
Wood, p. 78. 

3 Ibid., pp. 13-14- 


Thus any strictly esthetic questions may be abandoned 
altogether, and taken over by psychology. 


All of these varied approaches should suggest that the 
problem of esthetic experience is not one problem with one 
solution, nor to be answered after the manner of a mathe- 
matical or dictionary definition, nor to be arranged in 
any rigid logical system. There are many problems and 
many possible solutions. None of these reductions is 
entirely false; indeed, the method which produces them, 
the emphasis upon one aspect or class of esthetic experi- 
ences, suggests that they are all fairly true with reference 
to the aspect or class they start from; and by ingenious 
enough dialectical twistings they can be made to handle 
any esthetic experiences. But each of them is more or less 
relevant to any given esthetic experience. Only a foolish 
critic would deny that the poetry of Homer and Chaucer or 
many of the paintings of, say Ghirlandaio or Bartolommeo, 
should be approached historically (through (i)); and fur- 
ther that for us at least much of the value of this poetry 
and these paintings is bound up with historical considera- 
tions though this last changes: for a fourteenth century 
reader of Chaucer historical considerations were probably 
not important, since he could take them for granted. 
But with seventeenth century Cavalier lyrics, or the 
paintings of Masaccio or Picasso, historical considerations 
are relatively less important less important esthetically y 
that is: the poems and paintings may from another point 
of view be important for history. Again, many poems 
of the English, French, and German romantics of the 
early nineteenth century cannot even be understood 
apart from a personal, autobiographical approach (2); 
but a personal approach to eighteenth century music or 


Greek architecture or Elizabethan sonnets is a needless 
sentimentality, from the esthetic point of view, in spite 
of its possibilities from other points of view (e.g. psycho- 
logical). Likewise an attitude toward conventional moral- 
ity (3) ^ an essential element in appreciating fully the 
works of Jonson, Swift, Voltaire, Hogarth, Daumier; but 
it is a hindrance in the case of a Cezanne landscape or most 
Latin love poems. Again formal technique (5) is most rel- 
evant in reading The Faerie ^ueene or complex French 
verse forms or Horace, or looking at a Moorish arabesque 
or a Cubist painting; but it is less relevant for a novel or 
many portraits. Further, 'universal types' and 'funda- 
mental emotions* (4) are legitimately brought into a dis- 
cussion of Greek statues or Sophocles or Everyman or 
Racine or Johnson; but they are out of place in much of 
Donne, in Manet, in Blake. 

Another confusion, supporting ideologies based on these 
reductions, is that between the causes or necessary con- 
ditions of works of art and esthetic value. For the pro- 
duction of most works of art a historic and social milieu 
is necessary; but the value of the work of art is not 
therefore based on historic and social considerations. An 
artist or artists is also necessary; but a bad or even un- 
interesting person might create a good work of art. 
Medieval cathedrals were built for a definite purpose 
to glorify God and their serving of this purpose was 
doubtless the chief reason why most people regarded 
them highly. If we no longer believe that they serve 
this purpose this does not prevent us from finding in 
them now esthetic value on other grounds, though it does 
remove certain possible elements from the esthetic ex- 

There are no exact rules for relevance. We can support 
our opinions with dialectic; we can be as critical as lies 
in our power; but there are no formulas. Our knowledge 


of the esthetic experience cannot come from abstract 
logical systems; it comes from esthetic experiences them- 
selves; later, reflective examination may, within limits, 
introduce some order, but this order will not be at all 
of the same sort as, for instance, that of our knowledge 
of the physical world. And the 'reality* of esthetic 
experiences, the fact that they cannot be 'reduced' but 
only 'transformed* to other kinds of meanings, is simply 
the postulate that makes discussion possible. 

(1) The un-sterilization of reality. In Chapter III 
two uses of language were distinguished, two ways in 
which meanings are objectified, that is made shareable. 
The logical use of language seeks "a set of symbols of 
such a nature that, granted the realm of discourse in 
question, each symbol will adequately communicate an 
invariant and conventional meaning no matter what the 
external context" the context including any individual 
person who may happen to be using the symbols. This 
is the aim, in part successfully achieved, of the sciences. 
The poetic use of language, on the other hand, "takes 
words ordinarily having conventional objective meanings, 
and by forcing them into a new and independent structure 
objectifies fresh meanings." Far from being independent 
of context, these new meanings are inextricably bound 
up with the particular context (the poem) in question. 
In discussing the esthetic experience in general we may 
extend the idea of language to include sounds, colors, etc., 
as well as words. "The function of the artist is precisely 
the formulation of what has not found its way into lan- 
guage, i.e. any language verbal, plastic or musical." l 

The logical use of language is dictated by the practical 
advantages it serves, and also by the theoretic attractive- 
ness of the type of structure it is able to attain. The 
common-sense logical use is rough and somewhat sloppy; 

1 Ezra Pound in The Criterion, April, 1930. 


in science it is elaborated and purified. But, on any 
account, we have already seen how much common sense 
and science leave out. Conventional formulas, no matter 
how brilliantly exact and inclusive, can contain only what 
will fit into conventional formulas. The rest is thrust 
back into a 'subjective' or 'unreal* world of 'mind/ 
subjective and unreal because it does not conform to the 
categorial requirements of physical reality. But it is just 
this subjective and unreal world that esthetic structure 
gives its own kind of objectivity and reality. If conscious- 
ness were no more than a mirror passively reflecting what 
went on in some strange external world, this would be 
hard to understand; but, as we have seen, the mind always 
interprets, selects from, transcends the given. What is 
'known/ what we are aware of, on any particular occa- 
sion is only a small part of what might be known. The 
relations among elements of experience utilized by logic 
and science are only a minor fraction of the possible re- 
lations 'emotive/ rhythmic, qualitative, 'plastic,' or 
relations due to accidents of individual history. Through 
a complex variety of devices art is able to objectify some 
among these other relations. Thence results the 'fresh- 
ness' of the esthetic experience. Reading a fine poem, 
listening to a symphony, witnessing a tragedy, spending 
an hour in the Uffizi or the Louvre, we are refreshed and 
invigorated. Thence also the belief that the esthetic 
experience is the 'revelation' of some inner truth. It is 
genuinely a revelation, though not of a reality and truth 
necessarily superior to that revealed by science; it is a 
reality and truth, if we wish to use the words, of a different 
order, a re-grouping of meanings sometimes contradictory 
to science if we should judge by scientific standards 
but these standards are seldom relevant. Thence, again, 
the frequent feeling that a portrait shows more of its 
subject's 'character* or 'soul' than looking at the person 


(during which we fit the person into standardized con- 
texts), and much more than the most careful photograph; 
or that a poet has expressed what we feel better than we 
ourselves could. 

... It [the being within me] languishes in the observation 
by the senses of the present sterilised by the intelligence await- 
ing a future constructed by the will out of fragments of the past 
and the present from which it removes still more reality, 
keeping that only which serves the narrow aim of utilitarian 
purposes. ... A literature which is content with 'describing 
things/ with offering a wretched summary of their lines and 
surfaces, is, in spite of its pretention to realism, the furthest 
from reality, the one which impoverishes us and saddens us the 
most, however much it may talk of glory and grandeur, for it 
abruptly severs communication between our present self, the 
past of which objects retain the essence and the future in which 
they encourage us to search for it again. But there is more. If 
reality were that sort of waste experience approximately iden- 
tical in everyone, because when we say: " bad weather," " war," 
"cab stand," "lighted restaurant," "flower garden," everybody 
knows what we mean if reality were that, no doubt a sort of 
cinematographic film of these things would suffice and 'style/ 
'literature* isolating itself from that simple datum would be an 
artificial hors d'ceuvre. But is it so in reality? 1 

In literature this un-sterilization of reality is often ac- 
complished by metaphor, using the term in a most general 
sense. All words are originally metaphors, at least in 
the sense that they fuse meanings whose association is not 
logically necessary, but in science and ordinary conversa- 
tion the metaphors are standardized. How this happens 
is shown in any historical dictionary, in the so-called 

1 Proust, Time Regained^ pp. 218, 239-240, the English translation by 
Stephen Hudson of Marcel Proust's Le Temps Retrouvt. "An Afternoon Party 
at the House of the Princesse de Guermantes," the last chapter of this, the 
epilogue to Proust's novel, A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, is a profound study 
of art and artistic creation. 


'semantic shifts' that the meanings of words undergo. 
But the once vivid metaphors in words like 'charming/ 
'amazing/ 'dream/ 'applause/ 'animate/ 'telephone/ 
etc., are not only stale but quite forgotten. They evoke 
what psychologists sometimes call 'stock responses/ ad- 
justments for which the response-pattern is already fixed 
in us by automatically acquired habit. It is by stock 
responses (which may be of all kinds, resulting in emotions, 
thoughts, actions, attitudes) that we ordinarily meet the 
exigencies of living. Bad art trades on them, stimulating 
them by banal and sentimental symbols (thus, in the 
cinema, the old grandmother, the long kiss, the expensive 
automobile, the waving flag) and soothing us with their 
familiarity. Good art does just the reverse, overturning, 
if we cooperate, the stock responses, and forcing us to new 
attitudes so unfamiliar as to be at first perhaps repellent. 
In poetry, the metaphorical use of words, forcing with the 
help of the whole esthetic structure new and unexpected 
meanings together, can bring this about. 

O sun! thy uprise shall I see no more; 

Fortune and Antony part here; even here 

Do we shake hands. All come to this? The hearts 

That spaniel'd me at heels, to whom I gave 

Their wishes, do discandy, melt their sweets 

On blossoming Caesar; and this pine is bark'd, 

That overtopp'd them all. Betray'd I am. 

O this false soul of Egypt! this grave charm, 

Whose eyes beck'd forth my wars, and call'd them home, 

Whose bosom was my crownet, my chief end, 

Like a right gypsy, hath, at fast and loose, 

BeguiPd me to the very heart of loss. . . . 1 

Into the metaphorical effect rhythm, metre, alliteration, 
assonance, rhyme, etc. enter in ways that are by no means 
well undersood. It is to be hoped that psychology may 

1 Antony and Cleopatra y IV, x, 31-43. 


some day throw indirect light on their inter-relations, 
though methods in contemporary psychology do not give 
much promise. 

What corresponds to metaphor in the other arts is less 
easily verbalized, precisely for the reason that they make 
use of non-verbal languages. But in them, too, we find 
this same fusing and objectification of meanings ordinarily 
either not met with or met with in very different relations. 
A landscape painting does not look "exactly like what we 
see"; it looks usually like what we do not see. Nine- 
teenth century impressionist paintings of buildings and 
landscapes, for instance, look at first strange, with ' solid' 
colors split up into small splotches of many different 
colors. The painters themselves claimed that this was 
what we 'really' saw, which was certainly false; though 
it is what we may, on occasion, see, particularly if we know 
impressionist painting. And often the chief meanings of, 
for example, a sound in music are the other sounds in the 
same musical composition. 

(2) Contextual symbolization. In Chapter II a dis- 
tinction was made between 'ordinary signs,' which merely 
direct attention to their meanings (like a red light or a 
time-table), and 'reflexive signs,' which are themselves 
part of their meanings. This distinction is of funda- 
mental importance in esthetics. For in a complex esthetic 
experience the signs into which it may be analyzed are 
more and more nearly mutually reflexive: each is part of 
what is meant, meaning the others, and in turn meant 
by them. In a Bach fugue, for instance, each sound or 
sequence of sounds is part of the meaning of the fugue, 
means the other sounds and sequences of sound, and is 
also meant by them. Moreover, a developed esthetic 
structure tends to limit the references of its interlaced 
meanings to j^-reference in what may be called a 'con- 
textual symbolization.' What the work of art means 


tends more and more to be the work of art itself. Even 
the most superficial examination of esthetic structure 
will disclose this tendency: pictures are framed; poetry 
is written in definite 'artificial' metrical and stanzaic 
forms; a sculptor tries to have his statues spatially iso- 
lated from other objects. This contextual symbolization 
is something of what Aristotle meant by 'unity/ 

The Unity of a Plot does not consist, as some suppose, 
in having one man as the hero; for the number of accidents that 
befall the individual man is endless, and some of them cannot 
be reduced to unity. So, too, during the life of any one man, he 
performs many deeds which cannot be brought together in the 
form of a unified action. . . . therefore in an epic or a tragedy, 
the plot . . . must represent an action that is organically uni- 
fied, the structural order of the incidents being such that 
transposing or removing any one of them will dislocate and 
disorganize the whole. Every part must be necessary, and in 
its place; for a thing whose presence or absence makes no 
perceptible difference is not an organic part of the whole. 1 

Deeper analysis makes the tendency more and more 
clear; the most powerful and insistent devices of the artist 
are directed toward this fixing of the context (there is no 
reference here to the artist's 'conscious' purpose). In 
painting, color, line, shadows, 'masses,' poise each other; 
the eye seems to be forced in certain directions and no 
others; as we study a painting we gradually become 
conscious of the most intricate harmonies and balances 
(whose unifying principles may be far from clear at 
first glance), not only in general but often carried to 
minute details. Each element seems finally to be 'in- 
evitable'; any change would destroy the whole, unlike 
a snapshot photograph the background of which usually 
seems quite accidental. In poetry, there are underlying 
rhythms subtly varied, rhymes and 'false rhymes,' con- 

1 Poetics, Lane Cooper trans. 


sonant and vowel sounds recurring and half-recurring, 
words repeated in shifted contexts. In music, themes 
are announced, repeated sometimes as they first occurred, 
sometimes with complex variations, sometimes with a 
change of key, or reversed, or by another instrument, 
tempos change to balance and contrast with each other, 

To some extent this contextual symbolization is present 
also in 'natural beauty/ though here an artist has not 

A contextual symbolization of any order is ordinarily called 
'beautiful/ Beauty has always been identified with an * ulti- 
mately significant* symbolization. In 'natural beauty* we 
have precisely the same affair, whether it be the beauty of an 
act, a vase, a sunset, or a person. A sunset, for example, is 
beautiful when it is discerned not merely as a happening which 
either 'has no meaning* or is merely a sign of something else 
such as the time of day or the approach of the supper hour. 
Its beauty consists in its being meant as a phase of something 
with which it is identified as its absolute and necessary symbol 
or 'expression/ Thus the sunset is reduced to something 
unique, consisting in phases of itself which are its contextual 
symbols. . . .* 

From this there follows a conclusion that is often 
overlooked: as contextual symbolization is approached, 
factors external to the esthetic situation become less and 
less relevant as 'explanations' of its meaning. When 
someone says, "Gosh, I feel upset," if we paid any 
attention to the remark, our inquiries would probably 
be along biographical, psychological, or physiological lines. 
But this is less the case when Donne writes: 

Batter my heart, three person'd God; for, you 

As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend; 

1 Louis Grudin, A Primer of Aesthetics, p. 118, 


That I may rise, and stand, overthrow mee, 'and bend 
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new. 
I, like an usurpt towne, to'another due, 
Labour to'admit you, but Oh, to no end, 
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend, 
But is captiv'd, and proves weake or untrue. 
Yet dearely'I love you, 'and would be loved faine, 
But am betroth'd unto your enemie: 
Divorce mee, 'untie, or breake that knot againe, 
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I 
Except you'enthrall mee, never shall be free, 
. Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee. 

Here the biographical, psychological, or physiological in- 
quiries may all be true enough; they may even be neces- 
sary to our understanding of the poem, as a knowledge of 
Christian theology is certainly necessary; but they are 
less relevant to the esthetic discussion, which lies within 
the meanings objectified by the poem itself. The poem 
itself may, from another point of view, be an important 
'case study' in analyzing Donne's personality or writing 
his biography, but it will then, though these are fascinat- 
ing analyses on their own ground, have left its esthetic 
role. It is for this reason, no doubt, that artists object 
to those who want to know the 'meaning' of works of 
art, a question heard frequently about contemporary 
painting, music, sculpture, and poetry. Such critics want 
to interpret the work of art as a sign referring to meanings 
that can be put easily into conventional terms. The 
artist is insisting, not that his work has no meaning, 
but that its meaning must be sought on its own grounds. 
(3) Tradition. Contextual symbolization is for esthet- 
ics a kind of regulative ideal, which is approached but 
never wholly realized. The artist gets the meanings 
which he is able to use as material partly from his 'private' 
experience, but largely from a tradition which, though 


modified by the individual, is social in character. A 
tradition may be defined generally as any set of meanings, 
whether common-sense, scientific, religious, or artistic, 
shared by and thus mutually communicable to a group 
of human beings. But more restrictedly we speak of a 
tradition when there is a good deal of order and stability 
among the meanings concerned. A coherent tradition 
is of immeasurable value to the artist, for by it he can be 
more sure of what meanings his symbols will convey, and 
he can achieve a concise richness. He does not have to 
do all over again the work of his predecessors. And a 
more strictly artistic tradition can be built up, giving 
him innumerable technical devices as well as ideas and 
emotions that he can use for his own purposes. We can 
see how this operates by studying any traditional 'school,' 
such as that of Florentine painting or Elizabethan drama. 
The late Elizabethan dramatists, had an established form 
for their plays and their verse, a whole fund of images, 
rhythms, 'conventions'; and Shakespeare could be so 
great largely because his fore-runners had done so much. 
But it is true that a too coherent artistic tradition, as is 
easy to understand, contains its own destruction. The 
meanings within it gradually become stereotyped, formu- 
larized, and no longer suitable for art. And the late 
history of Florentine painting and Elizabethan drama 
shows just this happening. 

Nevertheless, one of the greatest difficulties which an 
artist has to face at the present time is the lack of any 
unified tradition whatsoever, and this will account for 
the banality of most of our art and the relative 'unintelli- 
gibility ' of our good art. Each genuine artist must work 
for himself, and his energies are wasted. He either de- 
grades himself to the Hollywood tradition, which is the 
only one widely accepted, and which provides material 
for most contemporary novels, plays, music, and archi- 


tecture; or he becomes an individualist like Joyce, An- 
theil, Klee, or the surrealists; or, like Eliot, tries to find 
support in older traditions no longer generally accessible. 


It is thought by many people that art is a trivial matter, 
a dilettante amusement, not to be compared in impor- 
tance with the more serious 'practical' affairs of life. This 
opinion is seriously and indeed dangerously mistaken. 
Art has always been important, quite apart from any 
intrinsic value; and today, because of the spread of 
literacy, it has demonstrably more far-reaching conse- 
quences in our lives than ever before. It is sometimes 
said that we have very little art, but the truth is rather 
that we have a great deal of bad art. And art is the most 
powerful of all forms of propaganda. Through the radio, 
the movies and their stepchildren the talkies, cheap maga- 
zines, free education and free libraries, bad art is now 
reaching everywhere; and, forming an insistent part of 
our environment from infancy, it is shaping our ideals 
and our desires, teaching us what to believe, how to make 
love and marry, what is worth while in life, what countries 
to make war against, what social systems to fight for. 
Art is, moreover, an irresponsible form of propaganda: 
for the most part those who are producing it wish simply 
to make money, and do not bother about its social effects 
other than those which will increase their own incomes; 
but even sincere artists often do not understand the ideas 
they handle, and their possible non-esthetic consequences. 
Mr. I. A. Richards writes as a psychologist: 

Underestimation of the importance of the arts is nearly 
always due to ignorance of the workings of the mind. Ex- 
periences such as these [esthetic experiences] into which we 
willingly and whole-heartedly enter, or into which we may be 


enticed and inveigled, present peculiar opportunities for be- 
trayal. They are the most formative of experiences. . . . Thus 
what happens here, what precise stresses, preponderances, con- 
flicts, resolutions and interinanimations, what remote relation- 
ships between different systems of impulses arise, what before 
unapprehended and inexecutable connections are established, 
is a matter which, we see clearly, may modify all the rest of life. 
As a chemist's balance to a grocer's scales, so is the mind in the 
imaginative moment to the mind engaged in ordinary inter- 
course or practical affairs. The comparison will bear pressing. 
The results, for good or evil, of the untrammelled response are 
not lost to us in our usual trafficking. 1 

It does not necessarily follow, as Mr. Richards elsewhere 
maintains, that improvement in art will bring about 
improvement in civilization. The social consequences of 
the type of mind capable of esthetic experiences of a high 
order may very well be not desirable. But in any case 
the situation is worth thinking about. Of course from the 
esthetic point of view itself the social consequences do 
not enter in; the value lies within the experience itself, or 
if extended, perhaps chiefly in the increased possibilities 
of further esthetic experiences. 

1 Principles of Literary Criticism y pp. 137-8. 



Chapter I presented a tentative outline of philosophic 
method. As such it was little more than an empty con- 
tainer; but to this the intervening chapters have given 
some content. We have applied our analysis to a variety 
of problems in many fields. We have seen how reflective 
examination, operating upon the vague complexities of 
familiar experience, selects certain aspects to emphasize. 
We have seen how various emphases crystallize into the 
more rigid structures we have called realms of discourse. 
We have seen, furthermore, how from these realms of 
discourse are built diverse and conflicting ideologies 
which, reversing the process, attempt to extend themselves 
beyond the realms of discourse from which they were 
formed, and which gave them intelligibility. There re- 
mains the question: can philosophy hope to group to- 
gether the ideologies into a single, all-inclusive view? can 
philosophy attain to a genuinely synthetic vision? But 
to ask the question in this way is deceptive, for there are 
two quite different forms that a negative answer might 
take. The first, and more usual, would be that such a 
synthesis is beyond the powers of the human mind. The 
second, the possibility of which is sometimes neglected, 
would be that such a synthesis is meaningless. 

There is no doubt that this synthetic vision has been, 
however modestly, the aim of many philosophers. For 
some it has been a distant and often receding goal, sus- 
taining them in a life of contemplation unalterably op- 
posed to the practical ideals that must inevitably govern 



the lives of the generality of mankind. There have been 
others, however, who have thought that at least in some 
measure they had achieved the ideal; or perhaps rather 
whose followers have declared it had been achieved. First 
among these in the West may have been Plato and Aris- 
totle. But their syntheses are not altogether open to us, 
partly because of the foreign idiom in which they wrote, 
partly because especially in the case of Plato they 
believed that much of philosophy could be communicated 
only through conversation, through the intimate and vital- 
izing contact of one mind with another. 

The greatest synthesis of the West was made during 
the thirteenth century by St. Thomas Aquinas. After the 
breakup of the Roman Empire under the impact of the 
barbarians, Europe fought slowly back to order through 
the guidance of the Church, the only integrating principle 
that remained. The Platonic tradition, modified by the 
Alexandrian neo-Platonists, was firmly established in the 
Church by the prestige of St. Augustine. The Aristotelian 
tradition was carried on by the Arabians. Albertus 
Magnus, the teacher of Aquinas, taking over the form de- 
veloped by the Arabian philosophers Avicenna and Averr- 
hoes, began its assimilation to Christianity. Added to 
these was the moral force inherited from the Jews, and the 
immediate religious experiences of centuries of saints and 
mystics. Aquinas, mastering all the knowledge of his 
age, fused these four traditions in a via media which was 
thought and is still thought by many to be eternally 
valid. Beginning with an infinite God, the source and 
end of all Being, he displayed reality as an ordered 
hierarchy ascending in every direction from pure, form- 
less potentiality to the final actuality of God. With his 
metaphysical first principles, many of them adapted from 
Aristotle potentiality and actuality, essence and exist- 
ence, substance and accident, analogy, unity, truth, good- 


ness he carves out the fundamental distinctions in 'what 
is'; and into the structure thus provided he fits theology, 
physics, mathematics, logic, morality, and esthetics. 

Nearer our own time Benedict de Spinoza attempted 
another synthesis in the grand style. He shows a God 
who is all things, a single substance which is the whole 
of reality; extended not through time and not by creative 
activity but with the beauty of a closed, everywhere 
self-referring logical system. Again, in the early nine- 
teenth century, the German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel, 
influenced by the growing importance assigned to change 
and to the history of society, tried to resolve the conflicts 
in philosophic theory. He viewed reality as an everlasting 
immanent dialectic process in which contradictories are 
continually reconciled, to form new oppositions. There 
have been, as well, many 'anti-intellectual' syntheses, 
such as that of Bergson, in which the fundamental reality 
is said to be given through intuition or immediate aware- 
ness; but these are in a sense an abandonment of rather 
than an attempt to answer the problem. Materialism, 
too, when it is considered not as a working model for 
science, but as a world-view, has provided its answer, 
picturing reality as an eternal, changeless (except quan- 
titatively), purposeless, non-conscious aggregate of in- 
definitely small units. 

Can we say that any of these or any other philosophy 
has answered our question and achieved an all-inclusive 
synthesis? Against the belief that any has done so, two 
seemingly unanswerable arguments can be advanced. 
First: we have studied the way in which inclusive beliefs 
about reality are arrived at, the dialectic procedure which 
finally results in considering them legislative for all of 
experience. But we have seen also that this very dialectic 
procedure which is employed can be reversed and turned 
against the final views to which it has led. There seems 


to be no way of avoiding this. No view can contain all 
of itself and have any but a verbal meaning; we must 
accept certain presuppositions and a certain method to 
reach the view. However valid the structure of a philo- 
sophical doctrine may be, there is nothing whatever to 
force us to accept those presuppositions and that method. 
No matter how self-evident they may seem to those who 
accept them, experience is sufficiently complex to lend, 
when we shift the emphasis, plausibility to a denial or at 
least a limitation of their validity. 

And second: when we examine the history of philos- 
ophy we find that, in fact, no one system has ever been 
accepted for long by a majority of those who think about 
such things. The historical fact does not of course prove 
that some one system ought not to have been accepted, 
but it is nevertheless a fact to consider. ^ The thomistic 
synthesis has had since its formulation always a good 
many followers. But even within the Church, not long 
after the death of Aquinas, it suffered under the attack 
of the nominalists and retired for a couple of centuries. 
In the seventeenth century it was revived for a short 
while by the Jesuits under the leadership of Suarez, but 
again sank back. More recently the revival in a somewhat 
modified form (neo-thomism) has attained some pro- 
portions in Europe. But comparatively few thinkers 
outside the Church have been willing to accept it; and 
even many of the neo-thomists admit that a great deal 
of straining is necessary to assimilate modern science. 
Spinoza has continued to have followers; but they have 
been a small group, isolated from the chief intellectual 
tradition. Hegelianism has influenced the thinking of 
professional philosophers for some time; but outside of 
academic circles it is of interest chiefly because of Hegel's 
influence on Karl Marx. During the eighteenth and 
nineteenth centuries materialism, usually somewhat dis- 


guised, attracted many European thinkers, particularly 
scientists, and philosophers who based their work on 
science; but through an intellectual accident relativity 
and quantum physics have thrown it over. History seems 
to have been anxious to vindicate the dialectic process. 

These two considerations are thought by many to 
answer the original question by an unequivocal negative: 
an inclusive, synthetic view is not possible. This, how- 
ever, is not necessarily the case. There are other aspects 
to bring in which, though they may not contradict this 
answer, may at least leave it in doubt. For convenience 
we may call a negative answer to the question skepticism^ 
and an affirmative answer dogmatism. Now the skeptical 
answer suggested by the foregoing critical examination 
may not be conclusive for the following reason: such a 
critical examination may not be the appropriate way of 
answering it. For the issue between skepticism and 
dogmatism is only from one point of view an impersonal 
intellectual analysis; it is also a normative, a moral issue. 
In accepting one or the other we are accepting an attitude, 
a way of ordering our lives and orienting ourselves toward 
experience. In our answer there may be involved our 
moral destiny. 

There is one obvious solution, namely that this and all 
other philosophic questions are foolishness, should be 
paid no attention, and if asked forgotten as quickly as 
possible. This is the answer that most people make, 
overtly or tacitly, and perhaps the one most should make. 
But it is not acceptable here. A philosophic discussion 
must postulate the worthwhileness of its questions. If 
this is denied, discussion becomes impossible, and there 
is after all nothing that can be done about it. In this book 
the postulate has been accepted. We may therefore ask 
whether philosophy has any answer to this question 
viewed as a choice between two attitudes. 


Philosophy can with some assurance say this much: 
extreme skepticism and extreme dogmatism are equally 
unacceptable. Philosophers have a cheap device by which 
many of them think they can refute an extreme skepticism. 
They say triumphantly to the skeptic: you at least are 
not skeptical about your skepticism; that you do not 
doubt. This is similar to their reply to those who say 
that there is no absolute truth: that, the fact that there 
is no absolute truth, is itself one absolute truth which 
you admit. These are supposed to constitute a reductio 
ad absurdum of skepticism. It should not be hard to see, 
however, that these replies are purely verbal. They are 
put in a pseudo-logical form, but a flair for logic does not 
prevent men from talking nonsense. If we examine not 
the peculiarities of syntax but what skeptics mean by 
upholding skepticism and doubting absolute truth, we 
shall see that it is something far different from what 
dogmatists mean by asserting dogmatism and affirming 
absolute truth. A thoroughgoing skeptic is genuinely 
skeptical of the final validity of any positive method; 
he has no positive method in the sense of those toward 
which he is skeptical; but if it were demonstrated that 
he did have, he would likewise be skeptical toward it: 
that is the meaning of his skepticism. The replies either 
do not understand this meaning, and tacitly assume their 
own position, or are simply word jugglings. 

Nevertheless, an extreme skepticism, such as solipsism, 
which has elsewhere been defined, cannot be admitted by 
philosophy. Skepticism may doubt anything which it is 
considering, but it cannot at once doubt everything. This 
distinction may seem like a simple sophistry, but it is not. 
Let us take an example: The path to wisdom, many think, 
is entered by "doubting the evidence of one's senses." 
But what can such a doubt mean? It cannot be a doubt 
that there is some sort of awareness. That is a simple 


fact. It cannot be doubted because there is nothing about 
it to doubt; doubt with reference to the simple fact would 
have no meaning. The genuine doubt must be about 
what we make of this awareness, how we interpret it, 
how we relate it to possible other awarenesses, what 
theories we construct on the basis of it. It is, then, any 
particular interpretation or theory that the skeptic may 
doubt. Moreover, philosophy insists that the skeptic 
understand that in making any inquiry or discussing any 
questions, he is accepting, if only for the purpose of that 
inquiry, something. The skeptic, for his part, claims the 
right to question what he has accepted, when he wishes to. 

An extreme dogmatism, likewise, cannot be admitted 
by philosophy. An extreme dogmatism says not only 
that its view is true and its vision finally synthetic; but 
that there is not even the possibility that it is mistaken 
and that some other view might be true. Philosophy in- 
sists, however, that dogmatism should recognize a certain 
arbitrariness in its presuppositions, certain limitations in 
its method not that it should necessarily abandon them, 
but that it should calm its extravagances. 

The logical impossibility of a complete dogmatism 
or complete skepticism simply shows that there is no 
genuine philosophical issue between these extremes. Be- 
cause an unqualified absolutism in either direction is 
self-contradictory, a logical surd, it only confuses the 
central problem to drag either one into the arena of 
philosophical discussion. But between dogmatism and 
skepticism in more modified forms a genuine issue re- 
mains. Has philosophy anything to say about the choice 
between them? 

The case for the modified skeptic can be put very 
strongly. In the first place it can be argued that intellec- 
tual honesty demands skepticism. For beings such as 
we are, however certain we may feel, an objective certi- 


tude is impossible. Whatever position we take up another 
may be devised to undermine it. Whatever belief we 
may hold, other beliefs are logically possible, and other 
men have held them, as strongly as we hold ours. Why 
then cling to vain and impotent illusions? We thereby 
only delude ourselves, lulling our minds with soporifics. 

There are next the claims of intellectual freedom. 
Dogma is authoritarian, demanding the acceptance of 
beliefs at secondhand from others. Thus is denied our 
moral and intellectual heritage, that which is our most 
valuable possession, which distinguishes us as men. Free 
inquiry alone has been responsible for any accomplish- 
ment of mankind, and is alone able to realize the highest 
potentialities of individual men. Unless we think what 
we wish, along whatever mental direction, civilization 
stagnates and progress is impossible. 

Again, the skeptic reaches the same conclusion for both 
social and individual morality. Dogmatism, he points 
out, is of necessity accompanied by intolerance; and 
dogmatic intolerance has thrown mankind continually into 
bloody and useless wars. Only an honest skepticism which 
recognizes the mutual validity of opposed viewpoints can 
give us that tolerance through which alone we can under- 
stand our fellow men and thereby live on the same earth 
with them in peace and harmony. Only by a skeptical 
readiness to accept the new, to throw off old and outworn 
doctrines and customs, can we be in a position to apply 
the practical results of free inquiry to the solution of 
mankind's troubles, to the alleviation of its suffering and 
misery. Authority, resting on the past, on tradition, on 
dogma, will always oppose every innovation, will never 
be in a position to judge a situation on its own merits, 
calmly and dispassionately. And the individual, in the 
same way, oppressed by custom and restraint, will be 
sterilized and de-humanized. His will without skepti- 


cism can never be free; he can never make a truly moral 
choice, for his deliberations will be bounded by the re- 
strictions of his dogma. The highest forms of friendship 
and love will be closed to him, for he can never admit that 
free and open communion which is their essence;- his 
judgment of friends, lovers, as well as of enemies, will be 
warped always by the presuppositions he is committed 
not to abandon. 

To all these arguments, convincing as they may sound, 
convincing as they do sound to perhaps most men at the 
present time, the reflective dogmatist offers balancing 
replies. The skeptic's position, he argues, is based on a 
mistaken notion of the nature of man. Far from leading 
to skepticism, intellectual honesty will only show us clearly 
the limitations of man's nature, and the necessity that it 
imposes on him of accepting some kind of dogma. The 
illusion of a thorough intellectual honesty is the most im- 
potent of illusions, based on the romantic dream of man's 
perfectibility; or, rather, a genuine intellectual honesty 
demands that, understanding our limitations, we should 
not delude ourselves with thinking that we can do with- 
out faith, but accept the best faith we can find. Other- 
wise a probably less desirable faith will lie hidden beneath 
the showy covering of our skepticism. 

Equally illusory, the dogmatist argues, is the skeptic's 
intellectual freedom. For freedom has meaning only 
against a background of order. The skeptic is not free 
to use his energies productively, but, since he lacks any 
direction, merely to squander them. And likewise for 
civilization, skepticism makes progress an empty and 
meaningless word. Progress is possible only when there 
is some end to be striven for, and only a unified view of 
reality can posit such an end; skepticism, admitting all 
directions, gives meaning to none. 

As for social and individual morality, the dogmatist 


declares the skeptic's position to be destructive and 
nihilistic. Mankind can live in peace and harmony not 
by an attitude of uncritical tolerance but by accepting 
a unifying world-view that will give a firm basis for 
human sympathy and cooperation. Instead of promoting 
universal peace skepticism often appears to have the 
opposite effect. Removing any lasting foundations of 
morality, it leaves men open to whatever socially destruc- 
tive whims may for a generation capture the allegiance of 
a group of powerful individuals. Instead of providing a 
system that might dictate the practical applications of 
scientific research, these are turned to the creation of 
more devastatingly destructive instruments of warfare. 
In peace, the ideals of tolerance and free inquiry have 
a disintegrating effect on the whole social order, nourish- 
ing a discontent that results finally in revolutions which, 
starting perhaps with noble ideals, continue long enough 
to see them further than ever from attainment. And in 
the individual, skepticism may well tend to paralyze 
moral and spiritual forces. The skeptic, compelled by the 
inner logic of his position, may be led to see the emptiness 
of his ideals, the vanity of any aim he may set for himself. 
And in the sorrows, misfortunes, and crises which all men 
must undergo, with no integrating principle to hold to- 
gether his inner life, he may find himself with no moral 

These, then, are two replies that might be made to our 
final problem. The choice between them is naturally 
much less simple than this brief account might indicate: 
partly because a person can be, and generally is, skeptical 
about some things and dogmatic about others; partly, 
too, because the intellectual traditions of an age determine, 
in often unsuspected ways, the possibilities of belief and 
doubt, of dogmatism and skepticism, for individuals 
brought up in them. Today, for instance, dogmatic 


theologians are fewer than they were a century ago, but 
dogmatic materialists and dogmatic Communists are 
more numerous: probably the prevalence of dogmatism 
in some form is more nearly constant than is generally 
supposed. If so, the reason is apparent. Most people 
can inquire and control the direction of their inquiries 
only to a certain extent; so that in the end they must 
either accept some dogma (however named and however 
disguised) or allow their thinking to become sterile and 
confused through lack of an integrating principle. Yet 
our attitude toward any given dogma should be one of 
critical vigilance. Whatever the value of dogma as an 
integrating principle, no specific dogma has stood through 
all human history, or even through a considerable part of 
it; and a doctrine that is of great value in one age may be 
a symbol of reaction and obscurantism in another. 

In this situation all that philosophy can do is present 
alternatives and establish a critical method for examining 
and comparing the alternatives. The philosophic method 
is particularly valuable when directed against dogmatisms 
that are current, for these, as the media through which 
we look at things, are themselves less easily seen. We 
do not need a philosophic technique to convince us of the 
unwarranted dogmatism of the Catholic Church's early 
Opposition to Copernicus or of Cotton Mather's policy 
of witch burning or of Cromwell's destruction of works 
of art. But the dogmas held by 'leaders of opinion' of 
the present day that religion is obsolescent, that the 
most important truths are to be got by experimental 
method, that 'liberalism' will make for the ultimate wel- 
fare of society, and countless more these are likely to 
be so much a part of our casual everyday thinking that 
we are scarcely aware of them as dogmas. Yet by dia- 
lectical method we can challenge any one of them; and 
with the next swing of socially accepted beliefs it may 


become fashionable to challenge them, or even paradoxical 
any longer to accept them. In this way philosophy 
turns out to be not only critical but timeless standing 
apart from the accidents of changing fashions in belief that 
succeed one another from decade to decade and from age 
to age; taking sides perhaps, but always with a recog- 
nition of what acceptances and rejections a choice of 
dogmas involves, and of what other choices might have 
been made. In this way too a genuine philosophic attitude 
resolves partly the issue between dogmatism and skepti- 
cism, for its skepticism consists in its never losing a critical 
understanding of the character, implications, and alterna- 
tives of the dogmas with which it allies itself. 


Adaptation, 293. 

Alternation, 108. 

Altruism, 374 f. 

Ambiguity 84 ff.; metaphysical, 185 f. 

Analogy, 146 ff. 

Anaximander, 8. 

Anaximenes, 9, 305. 

Appearance, see Reality. 

Aristotle, 80, 94, 166, 310 ff., 425, 440. 

Asceticism, 373 f. 

Assertion, 105. 

Association, 53 ff.; structural, 56 f. 

Atom, 189 f., 213, 221 ff. 

Axioms, 21. 

Bacon, Francis, 27 f., 48, 142. 
Beauty, see Esthetic experience, the. 
Begging the question, 89, 193 ff. 
Behaviorism, 17, 61, 1951"., 326 ff., 


Belief, 403 ff. 
Bell, Clive, 430. 
Bentham, Jeremy, 370. 
Bergson, Henri, 281 f., 297, 321 f., 344, 


Berkeley, George, 28, 247, 336 ff. 
Biology, ch. VIII. 
Bradley, F. H., 378 ff. 

Category, 178 f. 

Cause, 148 ff., 229, 280; first, 395 ff.; 

mechanical, 214. 
Change, 202, 281. 
Chaucer, Geoffrey, 421 f. 
Class, 75 ff. 

Coleridge, S. T., 419, 423, 429. 
Common sense, 201 ff., 256 f., 286 f. 
Communism, 177 f., 192, 380 f. 
Connotation, 75 ff. 
Consciousness, 26 ff.; see Self. 
Conservation, physical laws of, 21 5 ff., 

268 f. 
Consistency, 134 ff. 

Context, 55 f,, 60, 91 f. 
Contingency, 273 f. 
Contraction, Fitzgerald, 51. 
Contradiction, 109. 
Contraposition, no. 
Convergence of evidence, 135 f. 
Copernicus, N., 137, 166. 
Correlation, functional, 1 59 ff. 
Crashaw, Richard, 94. 
Criticism, 23 ff. 
Crofts, Freeman Wills, 33 f. 
Custom, and morality, 352 ff. 

Dante, 236. 

Darwin, Charles, 286, 295 f. 

Dawson, Christopher, 391. 

Definition, 74, 77 ff., 99; denotative, 
78 ff.; mathematical, 81 f.; per 
genus et dijferentiam y 80 f.; verbal, 

Deism, 395 f. 

Democritus, 239, 305 f. 

Denotation, 75 ff. 

Descartes, Ren6, 27 f., 86, 313 ff. 

Determinism, 155 ff., 261 ff.; physi- 
cal, 203. 

Dialectic, ch. VI; 386 f. 

Dilemmas, u6ff. 

Disjunction, 108 f. 

Dogmatism, 17; and skepticism, 
450 ff. 

Donne, John, 442. 

Driesch, H. A. E., 262, 265 f., 271 f. 

Dualism, 313 ff. 

Earp, F. R., 193. 

Eaton, R. M., 85. 

Egoism, 374 f. 

Einstein, 166, 228 f.; see Relativity. 

Elaboration, rational, 45 ff. 

lan vital, 281, 297. 

Eliot, T. S., 73, 430. 

Elliot, Hugh, 194, 325, 326. 




Energy, conservation of, 215 f., 218 f., 

268 f., 317. 

Entelechy, 265 f., 297, 311. 
Enthymeme, 113. 
Entropy, 217 ff. 
Epiphenomenism, 324 f. 
Epistemology, problem of, 316 ff. 
Equivalence, logical, 109 f. 
Equivocation, see Ambiguity. 
Error, 38 ff. 

Esthetic experience, the, ch. XII. 
Ether, 208 f., 221. 
Ethics, ch. X; 171 f., 176 ff. 
Evolution, 285 ff. 
Experimentation, 46 ff.; methods of, 

151 ff. 
Extension, 213. 

Facts, 39 f., 129 f., 135, 405 f. 
Fallacy, genetic, 193, 356 f. 
Faulkner, William, 37. 
Fernandez, Ramon, 364. 
Fictionalism, 241 f. 
Force, 214, 215 ff., 267 ff. 
Frazer, J. G., 303 ff. 
Free will, 345 f., 363. 
Freud, S., 338 f. 

Galileo, G., 10, 46 f., 166. 
Generalization, 141 ff.; statistical, 

161 ff., 219, 232. 
Given, the, 36 ff., 143. 
God, ch. XL 
Gravitation, 213. 
Grudin, Louis, 441. 

Hedonism, ethical, 369 ff.; psycho- 
logical, 359 ff. 

Hegel, G. W. F., 448. 

Hobbes, Thomas, 239. 

Hume, David, 348, 350. 

Hypostatization, 88. 

Hypotheses, 44, 129^; tests of, 
133 ff- 

Ideas, ambiguity of, 61 ff. 

Identity, functional, 247 ff.; law of, 

74; principle of, 203 f., 206. 
Ideology, 16 f., 189 ff., 406 f., 446. 
Illusion, 39, 55. 

Immortality, 312, 412 f. 
Implication, 1 06 f. 
Indefinability, 19 ff., 29, 82. 
Indeterminism, 229 ff. 
Induction, 142 ff. 
Inertia, 213. 
Interpretation, 42 ff. 
Intuition, mystic, 414. 

James, William, 40, 300, 414. 
Johnson, Samuel, 425. 
Jonson, Ben, 424. 
Joyce, James, 33. 
Judgment, 95. 
Jung, C. G., 339. 

Kant, Immanuel, 28. 
Kepler, J., 161, 166. 
Kohler, Wolfgang, 342 f. 

Language, 1 5, 65 f.; two uses of, 68 ff., 

435 ff- 

Laplace, P. S., 392. 
Lashley, K. S., 333. 
Lavoisier, A., 10. 
Laws, physical, ch. V.; 202, 2i5ff., 

229 ff., 261 ff., 266 f. 
Leibniz, G. W., 319 ff, 323 f. 
Lewis, C. I., i82f. 
Life, ch. VIII. 
Locke, John, 28. 

Loeb, Jacques, 260, 262, 265, 284. 
Logic, esp. chs. Ill and IV. 

Mach, Ernst, 341. 
Mandeville, Bernard de, 360. 
Mass, 211 ff., 224 ff. 
Materialism, 238 ff., 318 ff., 325 f. 
Mathematics, and biology, 261 ff., 

266 ff., 274 ff.; and physics, ch. 

VII; and science generally, 137 f., 

155, i59ff, 164 ff. 
Matter, 210 ff., 222 f., 314 ff. 
Meaning, passim. 
Mechanism, in biology, 258, 261 ff.; 

in physics, 214. 
Metaphor, 27 ff., 72, 437 ff. 
Metaphysical reduction, the fallacy of, 

191 ff., 238 ff., 252, 272 ff., 281 f., 

301, 332 ff., 350 f., 358 f., 420 ff. 



Metaphysics, ch. VI; critical, 178 ff., 
232 ff., 275; fallacies of, 185 ff.; 
systematic, 182 ff., 446 ff. 

Meyerson, Iimile, 149, 252 f., 264 f., 

Michelson-Morley experiment, 135, 

*22I f., 227. 

Mill, John Stuart, 370 f. 

Millikan, R. A., 397. 

Miracles, 388 f. 

Monads, 323. 

Morgan, C. Lloyd, 259, 277, 297. 

Mutation, 294, 296 f. 

Naturalism, see Materialism. 
Nature, 235 f. 

Newman, John Henry, 402, 407 f. 
Newton, Isaac, 137, 166, 173. 
Nietzsche, Friedrich, 376 f. 

Object, 32, 201 f.; physical, 57, 228. 
Objectivity, 68 ff.; physical, 207, 210, 

232 f. ^ 

Observation, 35 ff. 
Ostwald, Wilhelm, 254, 259 f. 

Pantheism, 394. 

Parallelism, 319 ff. 

Parmenides, 217. 

Parsimony, principle of, 137, 195, 392, 

410 f. 

Particulars, 144. 
Perception, doctrine of representative, 

316 f. 

Perry, R. B., 383. 
Person, see Self. 
Physics, ch. VII. 
Picasso, P., 6. 

Plato, 8, 78 f., i88f., 307 ff. 
Postulates, fundamental, 20 ff.; of 

analogy, 147; of determinism, 

155 ff., 203 f., 261 ff., 289 f.; of 

ethics, 362 ff.; of induction, 143 f. 
Pound, Ezra, 435. 
Prediction, 139 ff., 158. 
Premises, 49. 
Principle of significant assertion, 95 ff. 

194 f. 
Probability, 130 f., 157 f., 161 ff., 

230 ff. 

Progress, 25, 190 f., 299. 

Property, 48. 

Propositions, 49 f., 93 ff.; categorical, 
105; composite, io6ff.; conjunc- 
tive, 1 06; factual, 50, 98, chs. V, 
VII, VIII; normative, 50, 98, 171 f. 
185, 196, 234 ff., chs. X and XII; 
structural, 98 f., 212 f., 216 f., 
289 f. 

Proust, Marcel, 437. 

Psychoanalysis, 338 ff., 361, 431. 

Psychology, ch. IX. 

Ptolemy, 165. 

Pythagoras, 206, 306 f. 

Quality, 204 f.; primary and secon- 
dary qualities, 210 ff., 314. 
Quantity, 204 f. 

Reality, 96 f., 170, 182 ff., 191 ff., 

232 ff., 435 ff.; and appearance, 

245 ff. 

Realms of discourse, 15, 168 ff. 
Reasoning, 33 ff. 
Rebuttal, 112. 

Reductio ad absurdum, 1 26 ff. 
Relations, 50, 90 f., 99 f.; logical, 

102 ff. 

Relativity, 223 ff. 
Relevance, 44, 55 f., 89, 131 f., 183, 

243 f., 251, 253, 264, 280 f., 282 ff., 

297 f -> 3*9, 433 ff- 
Religion, ch. XI. 
Renouvier, Charles, 179. 
Richards, I. A., 8, 432, 444 f. 
Rignano, Eugenio, 46 f. 
Ritual, 355 ff. 

Russell, Bertrand, 72, 236 f., 393. 
Russell, E. S., 259, 297. 

Samples, fair, 163. 

Schopenhauer, A., 425. 

Science, esp. chs. V, VII, VIII; 
categorial limitations of, 179 ff.; 
contrast to philosophy, 6 ff.; world- 
view of, ch. XI, esp. sec. 2. 

Self, the, ch. IX; 364. 

Shakespeare, William, 419, 438. 

Shelley, P. B., 418, 422, 424. 

Sidney, Philip, 423 f. 


Signs, 29 ff., 48 f., 57 ff.; reflexive, 

3i , 37> 439 f- 
Shnplicity, 136 ff., 206. 
Skepticism, and dogmatism, 450 ff. 
Society, 352 ff., 374 ff., 382 ff. 
Solipsism, 340 f., 451. 
Sorites, in f. 
Soul, see Self. 
Space, 185, 206 ff., 224 ff. 
Specialization, 14 ff. 
Speculation, 188 f., 234, 291 ff. 
Spencer, Herbert, 187, 295, 358. 
Spinoza, B. de, 168, 319, 394, 448. 
Stebbing, L. Susan, 93. 
Subjectivism, 317 f , 334 ff. 
Substance, 246 f., 307, 314 ff. 
Subsumption, 76, 80. 
Syllogism, the, in. 
Symbols, 65 ff., 83; contextual, 

439 ff.; invariant, 70 ff,; logical, 

105 ff. 
Synesthesis, 431 f. 

Taboo, 355 ff. 

Teleology, 277 ff., 300 f.; and God, 


Terms, fundamental, 19 ff.; in biol- 
ogy, ch. VIII, esp. 265 ff., 275 ff.; 
in logic, 49, 73 ff.; in physics, 
ch. VII. 

Thales, 9. 

The same thing, 60 f., 333 f. 

Thomas Aquinas, 312 f., 447 f. 
Thompson, Darcy W., 268, 281. 
Thompson, J. Arthur, 257 f., 279. 
Thought, ch. IX; 32 ff. 
Time, 185, 209 f., 217, 219, 224 ff. 
Tolstoi, Leo, 283 f., 425. 
Tradition, in art, 442 ff. 
Transformation, 204, 215 ff., 289 f. 
Truth, 7f., 25, 78, 93, 95 f., 129 ff., 
157, 1 66 f., 187 f., 212 f., 263, 403 ff. 
Tyndall, J., 324 f. 

Vagueness, 85 f. 

Val6ry, Paul, 35. 

Validity, 102. 

Value, 255, 294 f., 299; autonomy of, 
192; dialectic of, 175 ff.; dominant 
and subordinate, 366; esthetic, 
ch. XII; extrinsic and intrinsic, 
366 ff.; moral, ch. X; see Proposi- 
tions, normative. 

Variation, 294, 296. 

Verification, 51 f., 98 f., 129 ff. 

Vitalism, 258, 261 ff. 

Watson, John B., 326 ff. 
Webster, John, 72. 
Wells, H. G., 190. 
Whitehead, A. N., 72. 
Wholeness, 275 ff., 294. 

Zeno, 90 f.